Thinking in Systems Quotes

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Thinking in Systems: A Primer Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows
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Thinking in Systems Quotes Showing 1-30 of 94
“Remember, always, that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be viewed. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“There are no separate systems. The world is a continuum. Where to draw a boundary around a system depends on the purpose of the discussion.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“We can't impose our will on a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“You think that because you understand “one” that you must therefore understand “two” because one and one make two. But you forget that you must also understand “and.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Let's face it, the universe is messy. It is nonlinear, turbulent, and chaotic. It is dynamic. It spends its time in transient behavior on its way to somewhere else, not in mathematically neat equilibria. It self-organizes and evolves. It creates diversity, not uniformity. That's what makes the world interesting, that's what makes it beautiful, and that's what makes it work.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Purposes are deduced from behavior, not from rhetoric or stated goals.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Thou shalt not distort, delay, or withhold information.”
Meadows. Donella, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“No one can define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can define or measure any value. But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce them, if we don’t speak about them and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.”
Meadows. Donella, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“So, what is a system? A system is a set of things—people, cells, molecules, or whatever—interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“An important function of almost every system is to ensure its own perpetuation.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“You can drive a system crazy by muddying its information streams.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“A system* is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Missing information flows is one of the most common causes of system malfunction. Adding or restoring information can be a powerful intervention, usually much easier and cheaper than rebuilding physical infrastructure.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Addiction is finding a quick and dirty solution to the symptom of the problem, which prevents or distracts one from the harder and longer-term task of solving the real problem.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“We know a tremendous amount about how the world works, but not nearly enough. Our knowledge is amazing; our ignorance even more so. We can improve our understanding, but we can't make it perfect.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“If you define the goal of a society as GNP, that society will do its best to produce GNP. It will not produce welfare, equity, justice, or efficiency unless you define a goal and regularly measure and report the state of welfare, equity, justice, or efficiency.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Systems thinkers see the world as a collection of stocks along with the mechanisms for regulating the levels in the stocks by manipulating flows.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“This ancient Sufi story was told to teach a simple lesson but one that we often ignore: The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Model utility depends not on whether its driving scenarios are realistic (since no one can know that for sure), but on whether it responds with a realistic pattern of behavior.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“The balancing feedback loop that should keep the system state at an acceptable level is overwhelmed by a reinforcing feedback loop heading downhill. The lower the perceived system state, the lower the desired state. The lower the desired state, the less discrepancy, and the less corrective action is taken. The less corrective action, the lower the system state. If this loop is allowed to run unchecked, it can lead to a continuous degradation in the system’s performance.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“You can’t navigate well in an interconnected, feedback-dominated world unless you take your eyes off short-term events and look for long term behavior and structure; unless you are aware of false boundaries and bounded rationality; unless you take into account limiting factors, nonlinearities and delays.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“The most damaging example of the systems archetype called “drift to low performance” is the process by which modern industrial culture has eroded the goal of morality. The workings of the trap have been classic, and awful to behold. Examples of bad human behavior are held up, magnified by the media, affirmed by the culture, as typical. This is just what you would expect. After all, we’re only human. The far more numerous examples of human goodness are barely noticed. They are “not news.” They are exceptions. Must have been a saint. Can’t expect everyone to behave like that. And so expectations are lowered. The gap between desired behavior and actual behavior narrows. Fewer actions are taken to affirm and instill ideals. The public discourse is full of cynicism. Public leaders are visibly, unrepentantly amoral or immoral and are not held to account. Idealism is ridiculed. Statements of moral belief are suspect. It is much easier to talk about hate in public than to talk about love.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Everything we think we know about the world is a model. Our models do have a strong congruence with the world. Our models fall far short of representing the real world fully.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“A system just can’t respond to short-term changes when it has long term delays. That’s why a massive central-planning system, such as the Soviet Union or General Motors, necessarily functions poorly.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“The system, to a large extent, causes its own behavior! An outside event may may unleash that behavior, but the same outside event applied to a different system is likely to produce a different result.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Because of feedback delays within complex systems, by the time a problem becomes apparent it may be unnecessarily difficult to solve. — A stitch in time saves nine.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“The systems-thinking lens allows us to reclaim our intuition about whole systems and • hone our abilities to understand parts, • see interconnections, • ask “what-if ” questions about possible future behaviors, and • be creative and courageous about system redesign.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“It is to “get” at a gut level the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

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