Resisting Dynamic Structures in Shifting toward “Systems Thinking”

Keyvan Vakili, Ehsan Fakhar Izadi, Shora Moteabbed


There is a unanimous agreement that “systems thinking” helps both individuals and organizations make more intelligent and more effective decisions. On the other hand, the unsatisfactory rate of systems thinking evolvement among managers, collegians, students and other stratums raises this question that, why such a useful, discriminating and tasteful concept in theory, does not spread with the desirable pace in practice. Where exactly does the problem originate from? The tragedy is more sensible when noting the fact that even those who know the concept methodically do not apply it in action and in their decisions.
This paper carefully seeks to identify major dynamic structures against the transition from “non-systems thinking” toward holistic “systems thinking” in individuals, moreover, the resisting structures and barriers in applying it. These barriers can be either internal or external. For example, being accustomed to a specific thinking style or the convenience of using an established mental model can be an internal source of resistance. External barriers in turn, can also be classified into different categories such as group level, organizational level and societal level barriers. Time limitations, group expectations, organization culture and society norms are a few sources of such resistances. Having identified these resisting dynamic structures, one can better realize the roots of this poor growth rate, and give more insightful and effective solutions to overcome the barriers and limitations.
Unfortunately, despite relatively numerous literatures on changing beliefs, values and behaviors of individuals, there are comparatively few works regarding dynamics of change in thinking styles and thinking methods. Moreover, there are often different terms used for addressing the thinking process in human individuals such as “thinking style”, “thinking process”, “thinking strategy” and “cognitive style”.
In this paper, an agreed upon definition for the “systems thinking” is extracted and its constituting components from different fields such as systems science, system dynamics and operation research are distinguished. Finally some major dynamic structures resisting the shift toward learning and practicing “systems thinking” are introduced.


systems thinking; thinking process; resisting structure

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