Is Systems Thinking Fools Gold?

As I was cycling into work this morning I started wondering about this systems thinking malarkey. Whilst I like it and a few like minded individuals swear by it, it isn’t very popular. Perhaps we are wrong and maybe, just maybe, the masses with their command and control thinking are right after all. Maybe we systems thinkers are the deluded weirdos.

Now I realise the masses are not always right. These are the masses who gave us slavery, sent children up chimneys and gave Bryan Adams one of the best selling records ever. However when you look at the history of ideas they often move through what Donald Schon called ‘good currency’. This is a period when ideas have mass appeal and are widely accepted. After a while things move on and new ideas assume good currency. This is a social learning process and demonstrates all the hallmarks of adaptive systems. But …

What if systems thinking is destined to never become good currency, rather it is like a commemorative coin, a possible collectors item but of no value in society. What if systems thinking has no value, where does that leave us?

Are systems thinkers proportionally more likely to be society’s outcasts? Do we have a greater tendency for minority musical tastes and are we quite frankly odd? 

Whilst I firmly believe in systems thinking, I wonder have we been duped? Is it the Emperors new clothes and are we too confused to see it? I hope not. Perhaps I am having a bad day, or perhaps I am struggling with the cognitive dissonance required to live in a non-systems thinking world.

Well as some chaps from ‘Madchester’ once sang:

I’m no clown I won’t back down, I don’t need you to tell me what’s going down

Down down down down da down down down down down down down da down down down

I’m standing alone, I’m watching you all, I’m seeing you sinking, I’m standing alone,  

You’re weighing the gold, I’m watching you sinking, Fool’s gold ….


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