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Systematic thinking

We need to think about the future from a systems point of view.

What is a system? It is essentially any group of things that are connected in such a way that they act in some ways as a whole.

Systems thinking starts becoming important for futures thinking when we think about some of the features of complex systems. For instance, a complex system is made up of a large number of entities. Complex systems imply a cobweb of cause or connections. Complex systems are inter-dependent; they open to the outside environment. There is synergy among the components and they often display non-linear behavior. What that means is a change in the system can produce an effect that is disproportional to its size, a small change may result in a much bigger effect.

Futurists look out for different relationships, for instance, between economics and resources; between economics and politics; between politics and technology; technology and the social environment; between the social environment and resource environment.

Systems thinking is a very important part of futures thinking, as the future is thought of from a systems point of view.

Discuss an example of a change in technology in the past 10 years that subsequently had major impacts for either politics or the social environment. Remember that a change in a system can produce an effect that is disproportional to its size.

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This article is from the free online course:

Futurism and Business: Dealing with Complexity

University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development