How we can support new perspectives using systems thinking

As the world continues to change our need to solve complex problems in a more interconnected way raises in importance. We are presented with wicked problems everyday, these are highly complex challenges with levels of uncertainty. For centuries, innovators have only applied one lens to solve problems and often not considered that their solutions only tackle one siloed issue.

There needs to be a shift from being immobilised by unknown outcomes and paralysed by information overload to understanding wider contexts, clarify different perspectives and make better decisions as leaders.

Approaches such as design thinking have paved the way for businesses, governments and start-up founders to use customer empathy when designing new solutions. However, it is not enough to just stop there.

There is no one silver bullet to solve these complex problems. Especially, if they have never been considered before. With so many unknown knowns affecting how we decide and navigate the future. Focusing on just one part of the problem is not delivering enough impact.

Innovation needs to get better. We need to take a more systemic approach to building new solutions and solving problems. Let’s face it, organisations find it hard to build the right systemic mindsets let alone the right capability. There is an over-dependence on looking at a single thing or part rather than the whole. This is where you apply systems thinking to reframe how you approach problems and see things differently through diverse perspectives.

Only through applying systems thinking can you understand the big picture and connect more possibilities rather than an isolated part.

Breaking the barriers to shift how to manage innovation within a start-up, community or large organisation can be challenging. There are four mindset-shifts:

  1. Consider a holistic point of view: When looking at problems it can become so easy to focus on partial elements. All relevant factors should be considered when applying change within a system. Just consider the challenges around compulsory education that has been around since 1880. Changing the education system means you have to incorporate the wider community, technology and historic process of learning as well as students, teachers and parents that are directly impacted.
  2. Design a system that’s open to all: Many existing systems are controlled by one or a few sources of power and influence. By decentralising and creating an open system for change. There are opportunities for innovation and collaboration to occur as stakeholders have the power to create solutions. This is possible when you involve many rather than a few. IBM has created the right environments to support start-ups and developers grow using IBM Watson.
  3. Intersection and connection across the system: What makes systems successful is the integration of many parts working together to share resources and ideas. Through clear vision and defining how you can help others across the system rather solely benefit. Elon Musk has supported the transport system and electric car movement by creating open-source charging and battery technology. Your goal should involve helping the stakeholders articulate the common desired future.
  4. Beyond a linear system: Fostering opportunities for the system to evolve over time is key and can create limitless possibilities. Clothing and food systems are going beyond their intended systems life-cycles as they adopt circular, regenerative ad evolutionary methods to create further value.

As we try to make products, services and experiences faster, cheaper and generally better. Interconnecting the right systems and communities are still an afterthought. We need to push the boundary to come up with ideas that have not been considered in the past.

Innovation | Strategy | Making a difference through writing, listening, talking and doing

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