Topic Progress:

Summary of the lesson

  • System thinking is a fundamental perspective (or paradigm) of Futures Studies; it is the lens through which futures thinkers view the world.  They see it as a system. That is a set of interconnected elements that is coherently organized in a pattern or structure; which is dynamic.
  • However, times when we don’t need to fully understand the system, linear thinking can be quicker and more effective.  It can help us move away from trying to out-think the situation.
  • But linear thinking will not answer all the questions…It is because, our world is made of many complex relationships and interrelationships; where various components affect each other in various, and often unexpected, ways.
  • One way to start to shift from linear to systems thinking is to practice identifying whether something is the problem or merely a symptom of something deeper.

References and further information

  1. Strachan G. (2009) Systems thinking – the ability to recognize and analyse the inter-connections within and between systems in The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy,
  2. Stibbe, Arran (Ed)  (2009) The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy: skills for a changing world. Green Books.
  3. Monat J. P., Thomas F. Gannon (2015), What is Systems Thinking? A Review of Selected Literature Plus Recommendations, American Journal of Systems Science;  4(1): 11-26,
  4. Dorner D. (1997), The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations, Basic Books, pp. 240
  5. Parsons T., The Social System (2005), Routledge Sociology Classics, Taylor & Francis e-Library, pp. 448
  6. Gregory P. R., Stuart R. C. (2014), The Global Economy and Its Economic Systems, South-Western CENGAGE Learning,
  7. Pidwirny, M. (2018). Understanding Physical Geography, 1st Edition. Our Planet Earth Publishing
  8. General Assembly Resolution on Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, (A/RES/64/236)
  9. Healy T. (2005), The Unanticipated Consequences of Technology, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics,
  10. Bibus C. J. (2012), Lessons from Dietrich Dörner’s The Logic of Failure, Wharton County Junior College, History Department,
  11. Ollhoff J., Walcheski M. (2006), Making the jump to systems thinking, The Systems Thinker, Pegasus Communications,  Vol. 17, No 5
  12. Ison, R. L. (2008). Systems thinking and practice for action research. In: Reason, Peter W. and Bradbury, Hilary eds. The Sage Handbook of Action Research Participative Inquiry and Practice (2nd edition). London, UK: Sage Publications, pp. 139–158.