Peter Senge in this book “The Fifth Discipline” defines Systems thinking as the apogee for proper organizational learning. Early system thinkers such as Imhotep, Plato, Socrates, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Adam Smith and others, observed naturally occurring systems to build constructive theories thus birthing early systems. Systems, although autonomous have defined purposes through an established set of requirements. There is long held belief that systems should be socially useful, where growth and progress should not necessarily mean more; this is supported by the principles of change, impact, value and loss mitigation.
We are physiologically built to only walk forward, and we often perceive progress as a linear motion; for a systems thinker, linear thinking can constitute multiple blind-spots.
One of the generally accepted characterizations is that “Systems thinking utilizes habits, tools and concepts to develop an understanding of the interdependent structures of dynamic systems. When individuals have a better understanding of systems, they are better able to identify the leverage points that lead to desired outcomes.”
The use of Systems thinking is not relegated to engineering systems, from ancient times all spheres of knowledge and learning employed systems thinking as the foremost form of rhetorical observance.
The Ant hills and their social structure inspired Nimrod’s tower, the great Egyptian pyramids and corporate pyramids. The Birds inspired us to take to flight. The Sun, Firefly and lightings enthused electricity and the list goes on.
The use of homing pigeons to carry messages started by ancient Persians, went to be used by the Greeks to communicate Olympic messages, in the 19th century was a primary form of sending mail as evidenced in the Napoleonic wars. Through continuous improvement this became the building block for courier services, the telegram, Telex and modern telecommunications.
In the 21st Century, there is a new phenomenon or paradigm, we are more interconnected than ever, yet most of our systems are in localized pockets and structures. The levels of interdependency in all spheres of human or systems endeavor are astronomical. The pertinent question is “How do we maintain sovereignty, the will of the individual in a global setting and still progress in an ever expanding humanity?” This critical crossroad in the sands of time requires a balanced thinking.
The foremost instrument of globalization and digitalization, the Internet aka the Web, is a deluge of information and a dysfunctional chaos, although the general impact on the society is progressive it lacks a congenial intent. “The state of data continues to grow more chaotic as the tools and technologies continue to treat symptoms of bad data rather than the underlying cause of data problems.” Big Data as a prime decision making source without systems thinking are mere correlations void of insightful knowledge beyond the given set of data. Cyberattacks due to systems vulnerabilities is a major turbulence to this global structure.
A new approach to data, information, internet, software and systems is needed using systems thinking, if we are to produce the right social, political, economic and industrial results in a global context.
Here are some basic Systems thinking tenets:
- Systems Requirements (Results Oriented): mapping goals to sub-goals and actionable functions.
- Logistics (Positioning): detailed operational coordination of resources and assets.
- Priority (Importance): Precedence of goals and requirements
- Sequencing Theory (Timing): Optimal execution timeline and order
- Roadmap (Forecasting): Product or result iterations over a given amount of years
- Dependencies (functional Relationships): Sub-systems, functions and external systems
- Processes (Transformational and Dynamic algorithms , decision trees): steps, decisions and procedures
- Shadow Systems (Constraints, Turbulence and Disturbance): informal and extrinsic systems.
- Continuous feedback (error checking and compensation, self-updating algorithms): retro inspection.
- Knowledge base/Experience depository: Patterns, historical algorithms, correlations, external systems.
Of these concepts two stand to revolutionize Systems thinking, specifically the use of Dynamic Algorithms (auto created and updated) and Sequencing Theory (currently employed in DNA engineering).
To accommodate changing data patterns, environments and shadow elements, Dynamic Algorithms are auto-created and auto-updated through the use of continuous feedback loops. These continuous permutations of the algorithms are stored in the systems as “Gut-memory” until validation which will then constitute experience in machines. It complements already functional frameworks such as Agile and DevOps, which employ small iterations and continuous improvements. This concept will help improve old software libraries and sub-routines that pose security flaws. In the area of security (zero day threat for example) and AI the use of dynamic algorithms will eliminate challenges and provide a holistic view of the system capability. Algorithms formalize pattern recognition; they can be mathematical or structural.
Sequencing Theory (Auto Sequencing and Auto-Simulation capability)
Designing and optimizing sequencing is vital to success of every endeavor, when processes, priorities, logistics are out of sequence this could lead to undesirable products and outcomes. This in my experience has been the single cause of failure for most scientists in various fields. The sequence of actions, decisions, algorithms and executables is the secret to success in obtaining the right permutation. In DNA engineering, Sequence alignments were instrumental in understanding the DNA structure and engendered subsequent advancements. Auto Sequencing will allow systems to move processes, priorities and logistics around to produce the best results and insights; the system’s capability to perform auto-simulations is a critical tool for pre-process and post process validation.
As far back as the Stone Age, the use of tools required effective system thinking. Sequencing and algorithms in their most basic formats have led generations to endure adversity. The same tactics can be employed in today’s insecure and global society to meet the need of our times.