Systems Education

In the context used by the International Systems Institute (ISI), the terms systems analysis, systems thinking, and systems design refer to approaches toward human systems change that are guided by, and grounding in, a systems philosophy.

A systems philosophy assumes that the world can be best conceptualized as interconnected systems of elements and relationships. While this cannot be proved definitively, systems theorist believe that it is the best concept yet devised for describing fundamental, isomorphic properties that all real phenomena seems to exhibit.

Although systems are found in the material world, ISI is primarily concerned with the use of the systems concept to describe and change social networks, communities, and organizations. This involves applying systems analysis to understand how human systems form and operate, as well as engaging in social systems design, which is a methodology for participatively designing human systems.

The following books and articles have been recommended by ISI fellows as useful resources for learning about social systems design and about the social, cultural, philosophical, and scientific inquiries that have a bearing upon design and conscious evolution.

Foundational Principles

These books give straightforward descriptions of basic systems thinking principles.

Systems Thinking Basics: From Concepts to Causal Loops. Simple, easy-to-read description of basic systems principles. Clear, detailed explanations of how to model systems problems using causal loop diagrams (CLDs).
Introduction to Systems Thinking
A Systems View of Education: Concepts and Principles for Effective Practice
Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life

Systems Theory and Methodology

These books give more detailed, robust approaches to systems theory.

General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications
Living Systems
Social Systems (Writing Science)
Systemic Intervention
Critical Heuristics of Social Planning: A New Approach to Practical Philosophy
Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology

Systems Design

Designing Social Systems in a Changing World (Contemporary Systems Thinking)
Systems Thinking, Systems Practice: Includes a 30-Year Retrospective
Rethinking the Fifth Discipline: Learning Within the Unknowable
Systems Approaches to Management

Systems Thinking in Organizations

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook
The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations

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This post was written by Doug on September 28, 2008

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