Systemic thinking and the learning organisation

2017-06-08T02:19:00Z (GMT) by Olsen, Jane Haslett, Tim
Systemic thinking emerged in the 1940s in critique of reductionist thinking. Systemic thinking aims to use two aspects to interpret social systems, namely 'synergy' where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and interrelatedness which address the relationships between component parts. Such an approach aims to build to a holistic view, one which coexists with the environment taking into account the continuous flow of information backward and forward known as feedback. While the adoption of systemic thinking has been slow because it is not reductionist in nature, as opposed to the accepted scientific approach, it is a powerful tool with its emphasis on holism, context and seeing processes of change or behaviours over time. Despite its slow adoption, systemic thinking can be successfully integrated into the workplace. It will require the presence and practice of learning at the individual, group and organisational level, together with enablers such as a culture of exploration and innovation, empowerment, and the 'space' or opportunities to practise the skills putting the learnings into action. These attributes when present at an organisational level, typify a learning organisation. This paper overviews systemic thinking in the context of the strategic management process, and then discusses learning, its relationship to systemic thinking and the learning cycle itself, with particular emphasis on action and reflection. The learning organisation is overviewed and the parallels between learning organisations and systemic thinking are identified. Implications for the broader research study are drawn throughout.