system thinking

A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules and form a unified whole.

A system surrounded and influenced by its environment is described by its boundaries, structure and purpose, and expressed in terms of its functioning. Systems are the object of study of systems theory.

Examples of such systems are

  • Motorists travelling on the A8
  • A beehive
  • The spectators who want to go to a football match in a stadium
  • A software team

One can name some basic properties of systems:

  • Systems have a purpose. The hive ensures the survival of the bee swarm.
  • Systems have a mode of operation or form of interaction. The way the software team works is by working together on a software system.
  • Systems only work as a whole. The structure of the system is important A hive without the element “worker bees” does not work. If you cut one mouse, you don’t get two smaller mice. On the other hand, if a wrench goes missing, I still have a collection of tools.
  • Systems want to remain stable. You achieve this through feedback loops based on how the system works.
  • Systems, especially biological and social systems are emergent, i.e. they evolve, they can also evolve their purpose. That won’t happen to me with my car as a technical system – those are more limited.

Without these conditions, it is not a system, but a random collection of objects or a collection.