Systems Thinking: The Key to Thriving in a Complex Future


Our future is very complex. The sheer number of building blocks complicates not just our ability to see the future, but any chance we have to navigate it. As these building blocks combine in ever increasing ways, the challenges multiply. Leaders of tomorrow will move towards systemic leadership, having an ability to connect dots. Innovation will move from a myopic view of offerings to systems innovation.

To accomplish this, systems thinking must be embraced by leaders. Systems thinking is a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the way that a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. As leaders, we struggle with this holistic approach, choosing instead to focus on short term versus long term, and delivering immediate results versus positioning for the future. This focus is in direct conflict with where our complex future is taking us.

Systems Thinking - MobilityThis visual reflects a simple exercise: the combinatorial innovation that emerges as aspects of a larger system come together to completely change current paradigms. This view of the future of mobility can be applied to any future scenario. If we can’t envision the building blocks combining, we can’t prepare ourselves, our companies, our governments, or society for the future that emerges. One of the most important leadership traits going forward are systems thinking, systemic leadership, and systems innovation. Can we see beyond our short term focus? Time will tell.

This older post on Intersections dives a little deeper into the dynamic that is likely to occur as convergence across the science and technology foundation both creates future scenarios, and intersects with them.

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