How Is the Iceberg Model Used in Systems Thinking?

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Solving complex problems necessitates thinking outside the box. If you focus solely on the finer points, you may miss the forest for the trees. Systems thinking allows you to consider the entire picture of how an interlocking set of parts works. Analysing system behaviour in this manner allows you to gain a much deeper understanding of your company or organization.


What Is Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking prioritizes looking at the big picture over making minor adjustments to minor details. In this method, you take a long, hard look at the whole before breaking it down into its constituent parts. The basic premise is straightforward: the better you understand how an entire system works, the easier it will be to implement changes to independent parts of that system.

Consider climate change as an example. You may believe that overhauling one aspect of environmental policy at a time is necessary, but this approach can have unintended consequences. Because of your narrow focus on one aspect of the climate, you may end up harming another aspect of the ecosystem. Assume you successfully eliminate all gas-powered vehicles from the road but then increase your reliance on fossil fuels for the electrical grid. You could have anticipated this problem and devised a solution that was appropriate for both situations if you had used systems thinking.


Systems Thinking vs. Design Thinking

Systems thinking is concerned with improving the entirety of a holistic system, whereas design thinking is concerned with emphasizing a positive design experience for users. The former is also derived from abstract systems theory, whereas the latter is motivated by a desire to make intuitive and beneficial improvements to systemic design in particular.

Both design and systems models can have beneficial interactions. In short, while design thinking is likely to be involved in systems thinking, it is only one aspect of systems thinking.


Why Use Systems Thinking?

For problem solving, systems thinking has nearly limitless applications. Implementing systems theory can help you achieve greater efficiency, success, and sustainability. It can assist you in better understanding patterns of behaviour among co-workers, project management issues, or areas of concern in your manufacturing process. When you see an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective, you should use systems thinking.


Themes of Systems Thinking

The idea behind systems thinking is that various moving parts always contribute to a functional or dysfunctional whole. These are just a few of the discipline's key concepts:

1. Cause and effect: Try to understand how each component of a system affects the others. Begin with the broadest possible perspective. Ask yourself what you hope the overall effect of the system will be, and then work backwards from there. To help you visualize this process, consider using causal loop diagrams and other charts.

2. Holistic awareness: The systems approach prioritizes holistic awareness over specific expertise. Complex systems necessitate extensive analysis—you must be able to see them from every possible angle. The more you understand a totality, the easier it will be to develop an accurate view of the problems that each part of that whole faces.

3. Interdependence: In systems science and theory, every element is linked to each of its constituent parts in some way. When you understand how an entire system works, you can target specific leverage points to increase efficiency and effectiveness.


How Is the Iceberg Model Used in Systems Thinking?

The iceberg methodology is a mental model that can help you get started with systems thinking. Begin with a specific event or problem that your organization is experiencing. This is just the beginning. Examine the patterns and trends associated with that issue. Consider the underlying structures and mental models that led to these patterns as you progress through your analysis. This will give you more insight into why something happened than if you just examined it in a vacuum.

Moving from the bottom of the iceberg to the top will also benefit systems thinkers. This allows you to avoid negative events in the first place because you already know what causes them on a deeper level. Flow diagrams and other tools for systems thinking can also be useful in this regard.


How to Use Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a tool for understanding your own organization as well as the complex world around you. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind if you decide to do it yourself:

1. Deal with the underlying structures. Begin by considering your organization's big picture from a systems standpoint. The better you understand the underlying components of the entire system, the better you will be able to avoid or solve problems as they arise. A solid foundation is required for a house so that all of the other building blocks can be placed on top of it.

2. Ask the appropriate questions. Consider system dynamics when approaching your business. Request feedback from customers or coworkers so that you can begin to compile case studies. These will provide you with a more complete picture of your organization. Create an iceberg model using this information and base your decisions on it.

3. Collaborate as a group. Contact all relevant stakeholders to obtain a complete picture of your organization as a system. The more diverse your perspectives, the more vivid your understanding of how you all work together will be.

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