D- The Dancer, the systems thinker and the politician

Houda Boulahbel
Systems Thinking Made Simple
6 min readDec 11, 2023

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If you knew me in my twenties, you would definitely know one thing: I was obsessed with flamenco dancing! I was serious about my dancing lessons, and took every opportunity to practise: at bus stops, in the street, in the lab (I was a cancer research scientist back then), in supermarket queues, at airports… I was constantly tapping my heels.

photo by JeraRS, Adobe Stock.

My life changed a lot since then, and my flamenco dancing days got to an end. However, one thing remained strongly ingrained in my brain.

When you start to learn flamenco, you start with the compás: the rhythmic cycle of the music. In other words, you start by understanding the beat before you start moving to it. Once you get the beat you can begin to move and to express yourself within the boundaries of that beat.

What I was practicing in all those places was the beat, especially that of the Bulería dance, a quick, twelve-beat rhythm, that gave the dancer a lot of room for improvisation. I internalised it so well that I can still tap it with my feet while I write this article, almost twenty years later.

[Here’s a Bulería dance for you. It’s not me dancing…unfortunately!]

What does this have to do with thinking about systems?

Enters the systems thinker

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Houda Boulahbel
Systems Thinking Made Simple

Systems thinking consultant and educator. Ex-cancer research scientist. Curious about the world. Check out my website: www.ifsi.uk