Systems Thinking Quotes | 23 Favorite Thought-Provoking Sayings

Systems Thinking Quotes

Systems thinking is an important perspective for all network leaders! A network is fundamentally a system, experiencing many of the same dynamics that other systems go through, including emergence, feedback loops, and interconnection. We’ve come across many insightful systems thinking quotes and sayings over our years or work in this area. Here are 23 of our favorite systems thinking quotes that have stood out to our team!

What is Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking is a broad term that refers to a different perspective or way of thinking, focusing on systems interactions rather than linear explanations. Systems thinking involves numerous assumptions. For example, in systems thinking, we assume that interaction creations something greater than the sum of the system’s parts, through a process called emergence. It also assumes that almost all social issues are interconnected with other aspects of life, and that these interconnections must be understood to understand the overall system. This makes network science a natural partner for these systems thinking quotes.

23 Great Systems Thinking Quotes

“Remember, always, that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be viewed. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own.”

– Donella H. Meadows

“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.”

– The Buddha

“Listening to both sides of a story will convince you that there is more to a story than both sides.”

– Frank Tyger

“The system, to a large extent, causes its own behavior! An outside event may may unleash that behavior, but the same outside event applied to a different system is likely to produce a different result.”

― Donella H. Meadows

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

– H. L. Mencken

“Yet we act as if simple cause and effect is at work. We push to find the one simple reason things have gone wrong. We look for the one action, or the one person, that created this mess. As soon as we find someone to blame, we act as if we’ve solved the problem.”

– Margaret J. Wheatley

Systems Thinking Quotes

“Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing ‘patterns of change’ rather than ‘static snapshots.”

– Peter Senge

“A bad system will beat a good person every time.”

– W. Edwards Deming

“A system is never the sum of its parts its the product of their interaction.”

– Russell Ackoff

“Reality is made up of circles but we see straight lines.”

– Peter Senge

“Addiction is finding a quick and dirty solution to the symptom of the problem, which prevents or distracts one from the harder and longer-term task of solving the real problem.”

– Donella H. Meadows

“If you do not understand your role in the problem, it is difficult to be part of the solution.”

– David Peter Stroh

“Synthesis is about understanding the whole and the parts at the same time, along with the relationships and the connections that make up the dynamics of the whole.”

– Leyla Acaroglu

“Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.”

― Nadeem Aslam

“Emergence is the outcome of the synergies of the parts; it is about non-linearity and self-organization and we often use the term ‘emergence’ to describe the outcome of things interacting together.”

– Leyla Acaroglu

“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.”

-Yasutani Roshi

“When we help another, we are helped. If we harm another, we harm ourselves. Perhaps harder to grasp—if we harm ourselves, we harm the whole universe.”

― Rachel Wooten

“Human beings, viewed as behaving systems, are quite simple. The apparent complexity of our behavior over time is largely a reflection of the complexity of the environment in which we find ourselves.”

-Herbert Simon

“Emergence of ever more complex structures seems to be programmed into the nature of our evolving cosmos.”

― Alex M. Vikoulov

“Dangers lurk in all systems. Systems incorporate the unexamined beliefs of their creators. Adopt a system, accept its beliefs, and you help strengthen the resistance to change”

Frank Herbert

“We can’t impose our will on a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.”

― Donella H. Meadows

“Emergence notices the way small actions and connections create complex systems, patterns that become ecosystems and societies.”

-Adrienne Maree Brown

“Movements are born of critical connections rather than critical mass.”

― Grace Lee Boggs

What Are Your Favorite Systems Thinking Quotes?

There are a lot of great systems thinking quotes out there – these 23 sayings only represent the tip of the iceberg. You can share some of the many quotes we missed, including your favorites, below in the comments. Here are several other good sources for systems thinking quotes you can visit online. We hope you enjoyed the article!

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