Systems Thinking Glossary
Change over time: The elements of a system change as time passes.
Circular Causality: “The language of systems thinking is circular rather than linear. It focuses on closed interdependencies, where x influences y, y influences z, and z influences x.” Systems Thinking as a Language, Michael Goodman (Pegasus Communications, Systems Thinking Tools, 1995)
Dynamic: “Characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000)
Dynamic Complexity: Dynamic complexity arises from the interactions among the agents (in a system) over time.” Business Dynamics, Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, John Sterman (McGraw Hill, 2000
Feedback: “Feedback is said to occur when the effect of a cause re-effects the next iteration of the cause. The size of a population is the cause affecting, as feedback, the amount of the next change of population.” An Introduction to Systems Thinking, (STELLA®, HPS-Inc.) “… process whereby an initial cause ripples through a chain of causation ultimately to re-affect itself …” Introduction to Computer Simulation, A System Dynamics Modeling Approach, Roberts, Anderson, Deal, Garet, Shaffer, (1983)
Interdependencies: Components of a system affect each other; the dynamics of the system are determined by the effects of the interdependencies, rather than by the components of the system themselves.
Leverage: “…leverageundefinedseeing where actions and changes in structures can lead to significant, enduring improvements.” (The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge, 1990)
Mental Models: “Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.” The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge, (Doubleday: 1990)
Pattern/Trend: “The general direction in which something tends to move.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000
System: “A set of parts or elements that are related and that interact to form a single whole or something that is considered a whole” Houghton Mifflin Dictionary Student (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989)
Systems Thinking: “Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static “snapshots.” The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge, (Doubleday: 1990)