Systems thinking (systems theory)

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Systems thinking in systems theory summarizes the typical perspectives of a systemist:

  • Systems consist of a large number of units of the most varied types, which as a whole realize and maintain certain properties .
  • Do not regard system sizes as rigid , but as constantly changing sizes. Stability of a quantity is only achieved through some activity.
  • Think in terms of processes, not states . In addition to black-and-white or yes-no qualities, there are many analogous sizes. Some cannot be analytically described.
  • System variables only exist in dependence , as a product of other variables that are beneficial or inhibiting with regard to them.
  • Control loops, product loops, activity loops, process loops produce certain properties over and over again.
  • A system is a structure with peculiarity , with internal laws that must be observed; living systems have their own needs and goals.
  • A system is an organizationally related state of affairs , distinguishable from other observation objects , whose internal order (= structure) is caused by its components (= elements) and their relationships (= relations, not causalities).
  • The diversity and intrinsic laws make predictability only possible to a limited extent . Macro-properties that can be determined over larger areas (temporal, spatial or structural) are more likely to be ascertained: e.g. B. Stability , probability , mean values , quality through quantity ; the diversity and intrinsic legality do not (logically) allow any selective or mechanically thought possible influence; Instead, actions such as provision, energy, communication, teaching & learning, exchange, shaping, shape, holistic or combined approach, resonance make sense.
  • All system parts are themselves systems (often called subsystems) that bring part of their self, their activity, their structure, their energy into the system under consideration (and also have areas that are only up to them to control).
  • Each part of the system is usually part of several systems in which it performs a wide variety of functions.

Classical and technical perspectives can be seen as a means of reducing complexity in larger systems; this includes: simple mechanics, simple rules, linear and categorical thinking (which are definitely used for partial solutions in very small areas and possibly also transferred to other systems). In many cases, however, a more diverse, more dynamic perspective is appropriate without neglecting the principles of effectiveness.

  • Inside and outside . The distinction between the inside of the system and the outside world and the relationship between the two is an essential point.
  • Reuse is a central tool of systems for the formation of energy surpluses.

See also

  • Andragogy - Science that deals with understanding and shaping lifelong adult education.
  • Adult and further education - "Continuation or resumption of organized learning after completion of a differently extended first phase of education"
  • Systems engineering - interdisciplinary approach to develop and implement complex technical systems in large projects.
  • System Dynamics - methodology for the holistic analysis and (model) simulation of complex and dynamic systems.


  • Peter Checkland : Systems Thinking, Systems Practice. Wiley, Chichester 1981. ISBN 0-471-27911-0 .
  • Furrer, Werner: System thinking, instructions with exercises. 3rd completely revised and expanded edition, Rüegger, Chur / Zurich 2002. ISBN 3-7253-0711-3
  • Schaub, Harald : Simulation as a decision-making aid: Systemic thinking as a tool for mastering complexity . In: Stefan. Strohschneider (Ed.) On behalf of the "Platform People in Complex Working Worlds eV" Decision making in critical situations . Publishing house for police science, Frankfurt a. M. 2003, pp. 55-79