What is systems thinking?

Systems thinking is a modern approach to learning. It encourages us to look at the components of a system together, stemming from the understanding that these components will act differently when isolated from the system.

It helps us to:
  • understand complex systems or messy situations
  • see the big picture
  • look at systems holistically, rather than atomistically

Here is a useful video overviewing systems thinking, and how it can be applied in our learning:

Created by the ACSCG Institute

Systems thinking in the real world

There are lots of people using systems thinking today! We haven’t been able to find many applications relating to chemistry, but we have found some examples where systems thinking has been used effectively!

Once such example we have found is a research paper that talks about how systems thinking has been helpful in:
  • Tree density management in the tropical region in Australia
  • Improving smallholder forestry management in the Philippians
  • Adaptive rodent management and participatory research in Cambodia

These projects found systems thinking a valuable method for reaching goals and understanding different issues at a higher level. Read the attached link to learn more details about these projects.

Hopefully as more people learn about systems thinking and understand its benefits, people will begin to apply it in chemistry!

What happens when you don’t use systems thinking

It is very important for systems thinking to be used in real-world circumstances.

There are plenty of examples where not using systems thinking has been disastrous!

Whilst not strictly a chemistry example, this video shows what happened in Borneo during the 1950’s, when they didn’t consider the additional problems that the solution to their mosquito problem (using dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, commonly known as DDT) would cause!

Created by Sustainability Illustrated