Transition to the Application of Thinking
Reading a handbook isn’t enough — it’s like reading a bicycle manual; it doesn’t help much. Solving problems is not enough — it’s like riding a bicycle only in a straight line, on a specially equipped track. It will take a long time to train yourself in problem-solving, in applying systems thinking to your work projects (riding a bicycle off-road in the mountains) — and only then will the blossoming complexity begin to recede and lend itself to a brain trained in systems thinking.
The basic ideas of the systems approach are few, and each of these ideas is fairly quickly understood. If we express the systems approach in one phrase, it’s something like, “to meet external roles requirements, we need to understand the functioning and possible design of the supra system and then formulate functional and interface requirements for the System-of-Interest. Implementing these requirements involves developing the architecture and then physically fabricating and debugging the System-of-Interest design. To do this, the System-of-Interest life cycle practices must be implemented by organizing a team competent in these practices and equipping that team with all the technologies needed for these practices. And all of this must be done recursively across multiple levels of the system’s breakdown, i.e., for all subsystems of the System-of-Interest”.
The problem is not even that these sentences consist entirely of terms whose meanings need to be known. All of these meanings/concepts/ideas are deeply related to each other and are rarely used singly. So what is required is a certain fluency in their simultaneous and combined use, roughly in the same sense as fluency in playing the piano or typing on the keyboard, fluency in speaking a foreign language. Every key on the piano or keyboard is understandably pressed. There are not many of them in all, the only problem is to press the different keys in time, quickly, and in the way that you need to get the music. It takes a few days of practice to master a computer keyboard, but it takes several years to master piano keys. In mastering systems thinking, as in mastering the piano, there are no simple ways except countless repetitions, by doing numerous exercises to use these ideas, by gaining experience in applying them to life. This, alas, takes time. That’s why it’s advisable to learn how to think from childhood.