This course is a comprehensive introduction to the area of systems thinking and theory that is designed to be accessible to a broad group of people.
The course is focused upon two primary achievements; Firstly providing students with the key concepts that will enable them to see the world in a whole new way from the systems perspective, what we call systems thinking.
Secondly the aim is to provide you with the standardized language of systems theory through which you will be able to describe and model systems of all kind in a more coherent fashion whilst also being able to effectively communicate this to others.
This course requires no prior specific knowledge of mathematical modeling or science, as we will be starting with the very basic model of a system and then building upon this to create more sophisticated representation. The course is broken down into four main areas.
Firstly we will start the course with an overview to systems thinking making a clear distinction between or traditional methods of analytical reasoning and the alternative method of synthesis that forms the foundations of system thinking.
Next we will delve into systems theory to start building our model of a system, clearly defining what exactly a system is and is not. During the rest of this section we will build upon this model by adding the concepts of efficiency, functionality and talking about energy and entropy.
In the third section to the course we will develop our model into a more powerful framework by adding the concept of the system’s environment, discussing systems boundaries, synergistic interactions between systems and the emergence of hierarchical structure out of these synergies.
In the last section we will look at different models for capturing how systems change over time what is called system dynamics, here we will explore the ideas of feedback loops, causal loop diagrams and the phenomena of homeostasis. Finally we wrap-up the course with a discussing of systems science, looking at how and why it is of relevance to us.
In this video we explore the very foundations to the system's paradigm explaining the primary differences between analytical methods of reasoning and systems thinking while also discussing the two methods that underpin them; synthesis and reductionism.
In this section we discuss when to use systems thinking, we talk about how systems thinking is most relevant when dealing with systems that are highly interconnected; that are dynamic in nature (meaning they change over time) and also when we are dealing with a system on the macro scale.
In this section we start to give an outline to what we mean by the concept of a system when we contrast it with what we call sets. The concept of a system is defined as a set of things that work together to perform some collective function this is in contrast to a set where elements within the set share no collective function.
In this module we start to talk about one of the key elements to our model of a system that is functions, functions are an important concept within many domains from mathematics to engineering and computation but systems theory abstracts away from the detail to presents the concept of a system as a process that transforms any input to an output through a set of stages.
Whether we are talking about a car, political system or a farm we are often interested in answering the question how well does it work, that is to say what is the ratio between the resources that the system takes in and those that it outputs, in the language of system theory this is called the systems efficiency.
Up until now we have been talking primarily about the internal workings of systems, but in this section we will start to present models for understanding systems within the context of the broader environment within which they must operate and interact with other systems.
A relation is a simple but abstract concept; it is a connection or interaction between two or more components. In this module we flesh out in greater depth what we mean by a relation and start to give definitions to the different types of relations, destructive and constructive or what we also call synergies and interference.
In the previous section we discussed how synergistic relations give rise to the phenomena of two or more elements having a greater combined output or effect than the simple product of each in isolation. This process where by the interaction between elements gives rise to something that is greater than the sum of their parts is called emergence. In this section we will be discussing this qualitative nature to the process of emergence and what are called phase transitions.
In this section we will be discussing the area of system dynamics which is a branch of systems theory that tries to model and understand the dynamic behavior of complex systems. It deals with internal feedback loops and time delays that affect the behavior of the entire system. It was first developed by Professor Jay Forrester at MIT as a management method but has since go on to be applied to all types of systems from modeling the dynamics of earth's systems to those of the economy and political regimes.
The word Homeostasis derives from the Greek word meaning homos or "similar" and stasis meaning "standing still". It is the state of a system in which variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant, despite changes within the systems environment.
Systems theory is a formal language that since its development during the middle of the 20th century has gone on to support many new domains of science under its canopy. In this last lecture to the course we are going to wrap things up by giving an overview to the application of systems theory to the various domains of science, what is called systems science.
Think Academy is an e-Learning site dedicated to the area of systems thinking and complexity theory, our mission is to take the world of complexity and make it accessible to all. Systems and complex can be intimidating subjects with many sophisticated concepts, this is why we believe it is important to always start with the most essential, simplest elements of a subject making sure that students come away with a solid understanding of the core concepts behind each area. As Einstein said "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler"
Courses are curated and presented by Joss Colchester. Joss has extensive experience within the domain of complex systems both within academic research(mathematical modeling of complex system + network analysis) and has many years practical systems engineering experience(designing and developing complex web based information systems). He has a passion for taking abstract and complex concepts and making them concrete and accessible to as broad an audience as possible by combining clear and effective graphics with well structured course content.