Olive Grove

The Forest, the Trees & Connections in Between

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What is Systems Thinking?

From young, we learnt that wood floats in water, while iron sinks.


Then we encounter ships made out of iron. Do they float or sink?


This illustrates the power of Systems Thinking – seeing beyond the superficial, and seeing how the system and its intricacies. Everyday around us, systems are working their devilish magic. Many of our problems cannot be solved by simplistic thinking – a holistic approach is required, and this is where Systems Thinking is useful. It teaches us to see the forest, the trees and the connections in between, so that we can diagnose the situation properly, and solve problems effectively.

How can it help me?

Systems Thinking makes one adopt a whole-of-systems approach to a problem. It enables one to distinguish between cause and symptom – for example, one of my clients had customers complaining about their after sales; the reaction was to provide service training to the After-Sales team. However, we later found that it was the Sales team, in their eagerness to meet target, that overpromised customers. This set up high customer expectations, which eventually led to disappointment. An example of cause and symptom not occurring in the same department. 

Another example is the common situation of a problem falling in between two departments of an organization. Both contributes to the problem, each attributes it to the other, but none really owns it. Silo mentality, 'Not My Problem', finger-pointing - these issues have many names, and are common in today’s complex organizations. They can only be resolved with a change in mindset – one that can appreciate the complexity of systems.

Workshops in Systems Thinking

We offer two types of assistance:

Education workshop – in which we facilitate a change of mindset, and introduce concept and tools of Systems Thinking. Through this workshop, the learners will be able to apply Systems Thinking on their own issues, and develop their ability in managing complexity and uncertainty.

Application workshop – in which we guide the participants in working on a real issue of their choice. This can be a workplace taskforce project, a group of people working on a tough problem, or a community project towards a greater vision. Through this workshop, participants walk away with a solution or strategy towards their issue at hand.