The Art and Science of Systems Thinking
A World Increasingly Obsessed with Work
To understand how we became a world so obsessed with work, you have to understand “systems thinking.” It helps identify the multiple forces that brought us to this present moment, and provides insight into how to make change.
Below are some of the “Laws of Systems Thinking” Peter Senge outlines in his book, The Fifth Discipline. We’ve taken the liberty of applying them to the issue of finding time for both work and family.
Take a listen to the YouTube recording as well. It’s a great conversation with Peter Senge and two parents whose personal stories demonstrate how we can each do our part to make BIG changes in this complex system.
Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants
It’s hard to develop solutions that take the whole system into account, but unless we do, real change is not possible. When it comes to work and family both sides impact the whole. To make change, we can’t just focus on changes at work OR home – we can’t cut the elephant in half – we must make changes in both arenas.
Cause and effect may not be closely related in time and space
Systems are very complex, and over time a change in one area may have unintended consequences in another. We can see this from the problem progressive countries faced around gender inequality after implementing long paid parental leaves. Luckily, many of these countries are now addressing this by requiring fathers be the persons who use a certain percent of paid leave time.
Today’s problems come from yesterday’s “solutions”
Assumptions around the need to be physically present to get work done are certainly archaic, but it may have been the only way to get work done during the industrial age. Today, the opportunities and challenges of new technologies and a global economy make it much easier to “blend” work and life. However, read on to see how today’s solution is creating problems for tomorrow.
The cure can be worse than the disease
Today, for some people, “blending” has literally become never turning off work. We can see this in Shark Tank super-star Kevin O’Leary’s comments, when he said, “I don’t have a division anymore between vacation time and work. It’s always both. I work every day.” And that rule also applies to his employees: “Do I expect my employees to respond to me when they’re on vacation? 100%,” he says. Is “blending” the only option in today’s 24/7 global economy?
Faster is slower
In today’s global economy, some believe the only answer is working harder and faster, but perhaps there is a better way … Instead of prioritizing work over the rest of our lives (and the environment!), we believe we need to develop a new mental model that allows all of us to live life at a more human pace. We at ThirdPath call it “Work-Life Integration” — prioritizing work alongside other life interests — whether it’s caring for our children, our aging loved ones, our communities, or caring for our environment.
Small changes can produce big results — but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious
Join us this week when we talk with Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline – one of the most well-known books written about systems thinking. We promise you will leave with big insights into the “small changes” you can make to find a more satisfying approach to both work and life.
Register to join this week’s Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar on January 16 with Peter Senge. We’ll be exploring the growing problem of “workism” – the pattern of people seeking validation exclusively through work — and how to fight against it.