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Design Tools for Systems Thinking

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Gigamap example by Manuela Aguirre: https://www.slideshare.net/ManuelaAguirre/policy-support-full-presentation

In this presentation you will learn about design tools and techniques to solve wicked problems, using Systems Thinking.

Systems Thinking looks at the whole of a system rather than focusing on its individual parts, to better understand complex phenomena. Systems Thinking contrasts with analytic thinking: you solve problems by going deeper, by looking at the greater whole of a system and the relations between its elements, rather than solving individual problems in a linear way via simple cause and effect explanations.

You can apply Systems Thinking principles in different situations: to understand how large organisations function and design for the enterprise (e.g. when you are trying to revamp a large intranet), but also to solve social problems and issues (e.g. unemployment with disadvantaged youth or mobility in larger cities). So basically whenever there is complexity and conflict (of interest) in your project, Systems Thinking will be helpful.

After an introduction to Systems Thinking and its core concepts, we will first explain and practice a few techniques that you as a designer can apply to better understand complex systems, for example creating a System Map and drawing Connection Circles. In the second part of the workshop, we will introduce techniques that help you shape solutions, for example using Paradoxical Thinking for ideation and writing ‘What-if’ Scenarios.

Presented at EuroIA 2015 with Koen Peters.

Veröffentlicht in: Design
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Design Tools for Systems Thinking

  1. 1. Design Tools for Systems Thinking 25 September 2015 EuroIA 2015 @pvermaer @2pk_koen
  2. 2. Introduction We are from Namahn, a human- centred design firm based in the center Brussels.
  3. 3. Namahn — Human-centred design, digital products and services — An experienced, international, multidisciplinary team:  17 designers, 3 staff + expert network  Founded in 1987 — Studio in the centre of Brussels 3
  4. 4. “Every design is either an element of a system or a system itself and is part of ensuing causal entanglements” (Nelson and Stolterman, 2012) 4
  5. 5. Agenda — Introduction to systems thinking — Design process  Understand  Explore  Define 5
  6. 6. Introduction
  7. 7. 7 Children spraying DDT on fields to fight the potato beetle in East Germany. With the beetles gone, other insects flourished and damaged the crops nonetheless. DDT was also very bad for the health of the people using it, causing cancer in many cases. Example of simple, linear cause- effect thinking. With systems thinking you take a more holistic view of a problem, and try to find solutions and measures that improve the system as a whole.
  8. 8. What is Systems Thinking? “Systems Thinking looks at the whole of a system rather than focusing on its individual parts, to better understand complex phenomena. Systems Thinking contrasts with analytic thinking: you solve problems by going deeper, by looking at the greater whole of a system and the relations between its elements, rather than solving individual problems in a linear way via simple cause and effect explanations.” 8
  9. 9. When to use systems thinking? — “Interconnected complex problems”, with multiple causes  No common understanding  Recurrent problem, interventions are not working  Unintentional and emergent behaviours — Multiple stakeholders, divergent perspectives are involved  Different views or mental models  Different benefits,  Paradoxes or seemingly conflicting ideas 9
  10. 10. The iceberg... 10
  11. 11. ‘Limits to Growth’ (1972) — Club of Rome — “Growth itself can cause problems and therefore needs to be limited!” 11 Systems thinking has been around for a while...
  12. 12. DISCLAIMER 12
  13. 13. Standard tools for systems thinking — System map — Iceberg — Causal loops; stock/flow — Behaviour-over-time graphs — Connection circles — ... 13
  14. 14. Standard vocabulary — Flow (): Any changed or changing factor that could affect the results. — Stock (//): A quantity that accumulates over time. It delays the effect. — Reinforcing (R+ same, or R- opposite), balancing (B) loops — Pattern: An event that repeats over time — Others: dynamic equilibrium; shifting dominance; resilience... 14
  15. 15. Example (Meadows) — Economic capital 15
  16. 16. System thinker Habits of a system thinker?  Look at the big picture  Be patient when things get confusing or complicated  Look at things from different sides  Think about change over time; identify how connections cause change over time 16 http://watersfoundation.org/  Don’t blame; look for ways to help the system work better  Find the keys to a system  Figure out the effect of actions
  17. 17. 17 http://www.donellameadows.org/coming-back-to-our-systems-roots Systems can be examined by zooming in to look closely at their stocks and flows and other component parts, or by zooming out to see the entire system as one interrelated whole.
  18. 18. Case: childhood obesity
  19. 19. The problem: childhood obesity — September 2015 is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in US — Obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years (U.S.) — Note: overweight versus obesity. Diagnosis based on BMI — Health effects: short and long term — Prevention? 19
  20. 20. Can systems thinking help to find solutions? 20
  21. 21. Design process
  22. 22. 22
  23. 23. We are going to practice... UNDERSTAND — System map EXPLORE — Design challenge — Ideation (paradoxical thinking) DEFINE — Transition map 23
  24. 24. Understand
  25. 25. Understand: steps — System map: understand the system and map its elements and relations — User insights, through a field study — Factors & themes, identify the patterns of human behaviour — System archetypes: learn to recognize typical archetypes of system behaviour 25
  26. 26. System map
  27. 27. System map What? — A system map is a tool for understanding the system, its structure, the interrelations between the elements of the system and the things that flow in the system. Why? — Understand the system and to identify the intervention points. 27
  28. 28. System Map: elements 31 — Boundary — Variables: Any changed or changing factor that could affect the results.  People (owners, actors, those affected)  Contexts (places, artefacts, activities)  Emotions, drives, perspectives — Relations: which ones are substantially reinforcing? — Intervention points
  29. 29. Exercise: draw a system map for child obesity — Define the thematic clusters and identify the core variables — Draw the relations (influences) between the variables, and mark those that are substantially reinforcing (positive or negative) — Identify possible leverage / intervention points 32 + - L L
  30. 30. User insights — Field study: listening to stories of (and observing) users of the system; challenge your hypotheses! — Perspective interviews — Personas 33
  31. 31. e.g. Listening to stories — Ask them to tell you how the problem started and evolved  Increase and decrease  Triggers and underlying causes 34 “What happened?” “What caused it?” “Why? Is there an underlying cause (or drive)?” ...
  32. 32. Exercise: system map (2) — Review your draft version of the system map  Variables you missed out on  Connections you didn’t see at first  New leverage points 35
  33. 33. Case: introduction video 36
  34. 34. Factors and themes
  35. 35. Factors and themes What? — Factors are the elements contributing to a particular result or situation. Themes are the drivers of the patterns of human behaviour. Why? — You want to explore the contributing factors and find patterns and themes behind them. This will help you to create a response to the problem situation. 38
  36. 36. Value framework Inspiration to find the universal themes can be found in the value framework (Elke den Ouden) 39
  37. 37. System archetypes
  38. 38. Archetypes of systems behaviour (Peter Senge) 41 — Reinforcing loops  Limits to growth  Success to the successful  Attractiveness principle  Accidental adversaries  Tragedy of the commons  Growth and underinvestment — Balancing loops  Indecision  Fixes that fail (policy resistance)  Escalation  Shifting the burden  Drifting goals  Addiction
  39. 39. “Drifting goals” — A system has a tendency, when it becomes clear that a goal can not be reached, to become less ambitious and lower the goal to a more achievable level. 42 goal actual result gap
  40. 40. “Shifting the burden” 43 — The tendency to focus on a symptomatic, short- term solution rather than addressing the root cause (because it is quicker & cheaper). By dealing with the symptoms at regular intervals, the pressure lowers to solve the more fundamental, underlying root cause. symptoms symptomatic, short-term solutions pressure to find fundamental solutions
  41. 41. “Success to the successful” — Allocate resources and reward the better performing party; those who underperform are punished and in this way further pushed down. 44 results of A results of B
  42. 42. “Tragedy of the commons” — When there is a commonly shared resource in a system, every user benefits directly from its use, but shares the costs of its abuse with everyone else. The consequence is overuse of the resource, eroding it until it becomes unavailable to everyone. 45 result activity A activity B
  43. 43. Child obesity? 46 — Reinforcing loops  Limits to growth  Success to the successful  Attractiveness principle  Accidental adversaries  Tragedy of the commons  Growth and underinvestment — Balancing loops  Indecision  Fixes that fail (policy resistance)  Escalation  Shifting the burden  Drifting goals  Addiction
  44. 44. Explore
  45. 45. 48
  46. 46. Explore steps — Design challenge: define the design challenge you want to tackle — Ideation: use the paradox cards to ideate on how your intervention would be — ‘To be’ experience, concept 49
  47. 47. Design challenge
  48. 48. Formulating the design challenge What? — A design challenge is a (re-)formulation of your problem based on all the insights that you have gathered. You decide what you want to focus on, and you formulate what you wish to design in a single, clear sentence. Why? — Set the scope – define the problem(s)/challenge(s) to solve in the next phases. How to choose? — Impact? Accomplishable? How concrete can your solution be? 51
  49. 49. Exercise: design challenge 52 — Phrase your design challenge(s) as following: “How can we obtain this result [what], for these persons [who], to achieve this long time goal [why]” — Define the emotional (soft) and rational (hard) requirements or objectives that must be met.
  50. 50. Ideation
  51. 51. Paradoxical thinking What? — Process of consciously bringing together the paradoxical sides of a problem to achieve solutions for the whole. Why? — Generates unusual viewpoints, leading to a better and broader understanding of the true nature of a particular problem or opportunity. 54
  52. 52. “The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.” (Niels Bohr) 55
  53. 53. Applied to the child obesity case... — Short versus long term (= time) — Global versus local (= presence) — Playful versus serious (= attitude) — Easy-going versus disciplined (= culture) 56
  54. 54. Exercise: paradoxical thinking — Choose the paradoxes. Pick those cards that are linked with your challenge or could inspire your solution. — Ideate on the extremes (first separately, then combined) — Find solutions for both extremes combined — Draw or write your ideas 57
  55. 55. Define
  56. 56. 59
  57. 57. Define steps Plan the route you need to take in order to reach the renewed system concept. Define what is minimally needed and what could be an interesting pilot. Map the transition towards the desired future state by planning all the design interventions and clarify how they will help to reach that future state. 60
  58. 58. Transition map
  59. 59. Transition map What? — Map the transition towards the desired goal by adding all the design interventions and how they will help reach that specific goal. Why? — This helps you structure and helps you plan the interventions in the system. — E.g. if you want to teach kids better eating habits you can start by having more fruit around first before you continue rethinking the food offerings at school. 62
  60. 60. Transition map - steps STEP 1 — Gather and list all your design interventions — Group the interventions per theme — Map the interventions in time by using the timeframe from the roadmap STEP 2 — Identify the gaps in your transition map, and add new ideas/interventions to fill in these gaps 63
  61. 61. Template 64
  62. 62. References — Peter Senge: “The Fifth Discipline” (systems archetypes) — Donella H. Meadows: “Thinking in Systems” — http://systemic-design.net/ — Papers  Peter Jones: Systemic Design Principles for Complex Social Systems http://www.academia.edu/5063638/Systemic_Design_Principles_for_Complex_Social _Systems  Philippe Vandenbroek: Working with Wicked Problems http://www.kbs-frb.be/publication.aspx?id=303257&langtype=1033 65
  63. 63. Download tools — http://bit.ly/euroia-system — http://goo.gl/ZWvB8B 66
  64. 64. Thank you @pvermaer @2pk_koen

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