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Systems: very brief rules of thumb


I am reading Draper Kauffman Systems one: An Introduction to Systems Thinking. Here some things I am learning.

A system is “a collection of parts which interact with each other to function as a whole.” A system cannot be split into separate parts and still be useful. Similarly, you can’t add one system to another and make a bigger system; you’ll simply have two systems.

Rules of thumb to recognise systems

  • Everything is connected to everything else
  • You can never do just one thing
  • There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch
  • Nature knows best
  • If ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you; it’s what you DO know that ain’t so
  • “Obvious solutions” do more harm than good
  • Look for high leverage points
  • Nothing grows forever
  • Don’t fight positive feedback; support negative feedback instead
  • Don’t try to control the players, just change the rules
  • Don’t make rules that can’t be enforced
  • There are no simple solutions
  • Good intentions are not enough
  • If you can’t make people self-sufficient, your aid does more harm than good
  • There are no final answers
  • Every solution creates new problems
  • Loose systems are often better
  • Don’t be fooled by system cycles
  • Beware the empty compromise
  • Competition is often cooperation in disguise
  • Bad boundaries make bad governments
  • Beware the Tragedy of the Commons
  • Foresight always wins in the long run.

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