Change over time is an inherent property of systems. A person can change a shirt or change her mind in a moment’s notice, but unlike a one-time-event view of change, systems thinkers focus on the nature of change over time.
The ability to observe how elements within systems change over time, and the means to represent that change, are important practices of a systems thinker. Change can be measured in concrete ways as with the changing height and weight of a growing child. But change can also be documented from a particular point of view, as in the changing temperament or level of independence of a developing child. For example, a parent may view her teenage daughter’s repeated efforts to become more independent as growing rebellious behavior, whereas the daughter views her independence as a part of growing up. For the daughter, becoming more mature means being less dependent on her parents.
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature; to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
The ability to observe change and make those observations visible helps people communicate viewpoints about how and why things change. Like the spread of a tweet or Instagram post, or the ups and downs of the stock market, trends are a part of daily life and our changing world. We hear about trends, see them illustrated in the news, and feel them personally. Observing changing elements in a system as patterns and trends can be practiced in all kinds of systems. Systems thinkers come to do this naturally.
Examples of trends:
Time spent reading for enjoyment
Morale of a company’s employees
Number of cars on a freeway throughout the day
Stress that a family experiences as children grow up
Excitement when starting a new school year