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Thinking in Systems

A Primer
Narrated by: Tia Rider Sorensen
Length: 6 hrs and 26 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (224 ratings)

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Summary

In the years following her role as the lead author of the international best seller, Limits to Growth - the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet - Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001. 

Thinking in Systems is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem-solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute's Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing listeners how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life. 

Some of the biggest problems facing the world - war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation - are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking. 

While listeners will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds listeners to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner. 

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps listeners avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2008 Sustainability Institute (P)2018 Chelsea Green Publishing

What listeners say about Thinking in Systems

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Applicable tools and techniques

There are probably two parts to this: The mapping (1/5) then real life applications (4/5.)

I'm a sucker for any models that stand the test of time and have diverse use cases. This book on systems ticks both boxes.

4 people found this helpful

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Brilliant introduction/reintroduction

Brilliant introduction/reintroduction to systems thinking. very accessable (and well read).
A primer (as in the title) but filled with valuable insights.
I would definitely recommend this book to others.

3 people found this helpful

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Thought provoking and useful on many levels

genuinely one of the best books I have listened to. has changed the way I view my business and the world at large

2 people found this helpful

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A Powerful Way of Seeing

This book has helped me to see the world on new ways, and has revealed new ways of tackling challenges. I had heard of Systems Thinking through my other studies, but this book has given me a solid grounding in the basics of what it is, how it works, and how it can be used to solve real problems.

2 people found this helpful

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insightful and down to earth

easy listen, good for anyone looking to improve thinking models and remind of whats really important

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Thought provoking

This book is for those who want to understand and apply their minds to the problem in life in a holistic way.

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Brilliant

Perfectly describes principles of systems science. Lots of great examples where systems thinking is applied to make sense of natural and social phenomena. Explanation of ‘the tragedy of the commons’ is well thought out.

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Wunderbares Buch

Systemdenken ist notwendig, um die heutige Welt etwas besser zu verstehen und auch um hoffentlich bessere Wege aus der Umweltkrise zu finden. Jeder sollte dieses Buch lesen.

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Introductory

A good introductory title, but quite lacking if you're past introductions on systems thinking

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Simple, yet intrigueing

Loved it. It tends to repeat things, but for learning it is just good. And in the end you’ll be wondering metaphysics!

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  • Andrew C
  • 12-05-19

Left me craving for more systems literature

I've been thinking about feedback loops for years but never realized there was a field of study that covered the topic.

Given the immense impact of feedback loops in all facets of (my) life, its certainly something worth studying more in depth. While the book goes much further, learning the definition of a feedback loop was even valuable: in a system that involves a stock, >= 1 inflow, and >= 1 outflow, a feedback loop occurs when there is a relationship between the level of a stock and the level of a flow. This is in essence another way to describe exponential growth.

This book discusses different system archetypes, of which on the highest level are reinforcing feedback loops (where more stock results in more inflow or less outflow), and balancing feedback loops (where more stock results in less inflow or more outflow). Without intervening to slow their growth, or through the counter via balancing feedback loops, reinforcing feedback loops will destroy themselves. Slowing growth in reinforcing loops is a leverage point can be fruitful for enhancing the sustainability of almost any system - the ecosystem, the economy, our bodies - and is more effective than the addition of balancing feedback loops. Other key leverage points, or viable intervention points in systems are setting up system rules/laws/incentives, reducing information asymmetry ("Thou shalt not distort, delay, or sequester information"), defining a system's purpose, and understanding the paradigms that led to a purpose. Instead, many people in charge of system decisions spend their time on low-level parameter tweaking such as how much political is energy spent on increasing the minimum wage; not only are these changes unlikely to have a significant impact on system performance, given the counter-intuitiveness of systems people often push these levers in the wrong direction.

Donella applies systems thinking to a host of systems common in daily life; I will now think if these in a much different, fuller way going forward. I'm excited to continue my study of this lens on the world.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Greg W.
  • 05-08-19

Changed the way I approach my work

I came to this book with no systems thinking background. It helped me get a foundation for the elements and influence on systems, and provided a framework for approaching problems by looking for stocks, inflows and outflows of system at hand. It has already influenced how I craft goals, consider stakeholders, and make strategic choices. I’m not a systems thinker because of this book. However, I’m a slightly better leader because of its lessons.

It can be a little difficult for a novice to listen to the first several chapters. Those chapters cover key concepts that would benefit from pictorial representations of the systems concepts. I’m listening to the book a second time, and I’m picking up a lot more this time.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Sigurdur Josef Arnason
  • 01-12-18

Excellent and enjoyable intro to System Dynamics

I love this book and listening to this audio version is a delightful experience. Tia Rider Sorensen narrates this perfectly.

Donella Meadows was truly an inspiring systems thinker. Her marvellous insights are so well and clearly communicated throughout this book that it will keep interested both the System Dynamics practitioner and the Layman alike.

This is a book that I wished all policymakers in the world would read/listen to.

6 people found this helpful

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  • John Z
  • 17-02-19

Makes you analyze everything from a different perspective

Very thought provoking read, provides real world and hypothetical examples of how you can look at something from a whole new perspective than how you already do. Concepts can be applied to any domain.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-08-18

Perfect intro into system thinking

really enjoyed the reader and the content. I would recommend to anyone looking to have a better understanding of why our ecosystem or world, in general, are all interconnected.

10 people found this helpful

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  • The Martin's
  • 03-02-19

Excellent!!!

Very good explanation of what I thought I already knew. I was wrong. Enjoyed and engaged every minute of it.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Dan Gottesman
  • 14-12-18

systems allow us to better understand the world

Very interesting. And it became more captivating with each chapter. I'll recommend it to others.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Kitty
  • 11-11-18

Must Read for Management

This was a required reading book for one of my MBA classes. The narration is a bit dry and it drones on a little bit, but the material is so comprehensive and useful that it's worth pushing through. Awesome book to help you see the bigger picture and how to avoid common circular traps!
#SelfDevelopment #Systems #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

3 people found this helpful

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  • Rakkhi
  • 05-05-19

Really not a book

As the preamble states this was some notes that was published as a book after the authors death. Really presents two basic ideas of a reinforcing feedback and a balancing feedback and then some very high level ideas and examples she admits were from one week of a newspaper. Would not recommend

7 people found this helpful

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  • Jessica Anne Beere
  • 15-04-20

Proactive, autonomous,

Donna Meadow’s voice is more relevant today than ever. I highly recommend that anyone read this book — it’s better than a ‘self-help’ book and it leaves you with a greater understanding of the world in a micro and macro way. It helps one to decipher the tools necessary to begin thinking systematically and to make real change within yourself, your company, or society at large

While Meadows acknowledges systems tech, she also acknowledges fleeting points of nature, and the unexplainable consciousness that we, as humans, find ourselves puzzled over with or without systems in place.

She states “Nothing is better than that,” when referring to the occurrence of no system at all.

Her call to action is that we focus on resilience and begin presenting our ideas through dynamic models and equations. “Get your idea out there!” she states.

This really is the type of book that will hitherto follow you into the great aspect of your life; enriching new ideas and modes. It is as a great resource and a great place to start. She reminds us that when looking at data sets, to remember there are aspects of us which are immeasurable and those can often translate.

1 person found this helpful