Donella H. Meadows (2008)

An introduction to systems thinking for practitioners. This is a book that avoids all the mathematics of queues and games, while still drawing heavily on their influence and allowing those wanting to learn and apply systems thinking to gain an understanding of the main ideas.

There’s a huge need for more systems thinking. It boils down to understanding the way systems “flow”, with resources entering, being processed, and leaving. In doing so we find systems that can have several “steady” states, still operating at full capacity but not maintaining a regular and predictable behaviour. We also find that systems can switch very quickly from one stable state to another, perhaps less desirable, and it might not be as easy to get out of such a state as it was to get in to it: behavioural change can be difficult or impossible to reverse.

All these ideas have proper mathematical underpinnings. The great thing about this book is that it consumes and presents those underpinnings without ever actually referring to them. It treats systems theory as a machine that anyone can use: you might get more precise answers from a more scientific analysis, but eiven without this you can still apply the ideas intuitively to gain a better understanding of the world. I think it’s a distinctive addition to the literature on complex systems.

4/5. Finished Tuesday 12 September, 2023.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)