In two short videos Russell Ackoff (4min + 8min) explains how western societies have been trained on a singular pattern of thinking called Analytical Thinking: breaking things apart in order to understand how stuff works by seeing the whole as a sum of its parts.
Russell then compares Analytical Thinking to a different pattern of thinking called System Thinking where the purpose is not to break things apart to understand how they work, but to see the thing through the lens of what it is a part of in order to understand why it works the way it does.
Analytical thinking helps us understand how stuff works, system thinking helps us understand why stuff works the way it does.
The thought process is fundamentally different:
- Analytical thinking takes something apart, system thinking understands what the thing is a part of.
- Analytical Thinking identifies the properties and behaviors of the parts taken separately, System Thinking understands the behavior of the bigger whole which the thing is a part of.
- Analytical Thinking aggregates the understanding of the parts into an understanding of the whole, System Thinking understands the role or function of the thing as a part of the whole.
Two quotes from the videos:
“A system is a whole that is defined by its role or function in a larger system by which it is a part” — Russell Ackoff
“You can’t solve the problems created by our current pattern of thought using our current pattern of thought” — Albert Einstein
Russell Ackoff pt. 1:
Russell Ackoff pt. 2: