Why the Failure of Systems Thinking Should Inform the Future of Design Thinking


In addition to the number of frameworks and ideas, and the density of the interconnections among them, there was a strong normative quality to the material and its presentation. “If one hopes to make any progress at all,” we were told, “you need to both understand and accept these related ideas.”

This particular version of systems thinking is not unusual in this respect. Peter Senge’s 1990 edition of The Fifth Discipline describes one manager’s reaction to a five-day introductory workshop on his approach, which among other things, requires growing comfortable with eight archetypes: “It reminds me of when I first studied calculus (p. x).” Systems dynamics, the Soft Systems Method and other approaches face similar concerns.

Each of systems thinking’s various manifestations demands some degree of subscription to an orthodoxy (a particular view of just what systems thinking is). And each requires that the user master a large number of related ideas and techniques, most of which are not particularly useful on their own.

Fast Company: Lessons Learned — Why the Failure of Systems Thinking Should Inform the Future of Design Thinking

(Thanks James Curcio)

See also:

John Kay’s work on obliquity, which critiques decision science.

(Photo credit: Gutter / CC)


  1. Great post- I am going to read a longer article. I am just about to start a MA in Systems Design! Ahhh!

  2. Go ahead and read it, I don’t think it should necessarily discourage you.

    Are you going to do the program at Antioch?

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