Systems Thinking: It’s The End of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine (R.E.M.)

Systems Thinking, at its core, is about interdependencies and relationships. Systems Thinking, if used, cautions the Leader to delve deeply into an issue before making decisions as the Butterfly Effect is inevitable.

Systems Thinking indicates that fully understanding a system is most difficult as all the interdependencies and relationships of the various subsystems – complete systems unto themselves – are likely unknown. As an example we do not fully understand the human brain or human consciousness. The cartoon reflects this complexity as systems overlay systems within the macro-system.

The Climate is not a thoroughly understood system, and yet, for decades we have been inundated with concerns that the world will imminently end. Al Gore, Greta Thunberg, and AOC have each so indicated and yet we are still here. Anyone familiar with modeling understands that such techniques are not necessarily accurate as each model is dependent upon the variables used. To complicate this, the longer the model’s term the less likely it will be highly accurate. We see this daily as TV Meteorologists struggle to predict weather beyond 2-3 days.

In a recent news article it was stated the White House is open to potentially Geoforming the planet to interfere with sunlight in an effort to cool the Earth. This as the scientific consensus is Climate Change, formerly Global Warming is a threat. When did consensus mean something was correct? Scientific consensus at one point was that the Sun circled the Earth and that the Earth was flat. Consensus does not mean fact. And yet, here we are with a Sci-Fi concept under serious consideration. Politically this makes sense as votes will accrue; however, from a Systems Thinking perspective there is much left to ponder. As an example how would such Geoforming be reversed or moderated as the Solar Cycle shifts from Solar Maximum to Solar Minimum every 11 or so years – could we adjust a global thermostat to turn the heat back up as needed? And what environmental impacts would occur as the atmospheric particles settle? Hmmm.

Geoforming the Earth is a fascinating concept yet the approach unravels if Systems Thinking principles are applied. What interdependencies and relationships must be explored to understand the downstream effects of such an approach? The downstream effects likely exceed second and third order impacts as such an approach could reach the twentieth or thirtieth level of impact. Is anyone at the White House thinking along these lines? Doubtful yet necessary. Why not think bigger and let’s build a Solar Dyson Sphere to capture all the Sun’s energy? Where is Elon???

Climate Change is so widely accepted that Bing AI refused “to discuss” this with me as I played in the system after reading the article about Geoforming the Earth. Bing AI spoke to the consensus and actually admonished me to reconsider my questions and to accept the consensus. Bing AI did address the shortcomings of models given the implicit bias of variable selection; however, it steadfastly refused to address the pros and cons of Climate Change as an argument – Bing AI simply refused to consider alternatives. In times past, non-believers were imprisoned for thinking the consensus might not be the actual fact. The Scientific Method is predicated upon proving and disproving hypotheses ergo my concerns relative to Geoforming – what are the predicted outcomes beyond ‘cooling the Earth.’ From a Leader perspective this interplay should be a concern as factors that may influence decisions, good or bad, need to be considered. Groupthink, consensus, is not always the Leader’s friend.

Systems Thinking should be at the forefront of every Leader’s proverbial toolbox. The Butterfly Effect is always a consideration no matter how insignificant the proposed change. Leveraging Systems Thinking, at a minimum, will provide the Leader with a richer, deeper understanding of the proposed change as the interdependencies and relationships will invariably surface if the effort is sincere and diligent.

CRE offers Leader Seminars on Systems Thinking, Foresight, and other topics within the Leadership domain.

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The Leadership Primer is available from Amazon. See : dirty hands and busted knuckles. It speaks to Perspective, People, Process, and Integration of fundamental Leader issues and concerns.