Tools of Systems Thinking

Systems thinking utilizes a variety of tools that help make thinking visual. By using methods to take our thinking and reasoning outside of our minds and into a form that we can see and easily share with others, we can better understand current behaviors of a system and ways to operate within a system to create desired change.

The tools and strategies of systems thinking include the ladder of inference, behavior-over-time graph, connection circle, stock-flow map, iceberg visual, and causal loop diagram. These visual tools are used to collect, analyze, synthesize and communicate insights about systems.

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Tool #1: Behavior-Over-Time Graphs

Learn to draw behavior-over-time graphs to show patterns and trends, in addition to telling the story of a graph as a way to explain your assumptions about a system of interest.

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Tool #2: The Ladder of Inference

Learn about mental models, their impact on systems and how to use the Ladder of Inference to recognize the reinforcing nature of our beliefs/actions.

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Tool #3: Stock-Flow Mapping

Learn to recognize and map key accumulations that change over time in a system by familiarizing yourself with stock-flow mapping.

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Tool #4: The Iceberg

Use the systems thinking iceberg to deepen your understanding of how system structure generates patterns, trends and outcomes.

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Tool #5: Causal Links

Learn about the importance of causal connections and their influence on systems. You will be able to tell the story of causal relationships and apply this to elements within your own system of interest.

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Tool #6: Causal Connection Circle Mapping

Apply the knowledge you gained of causal links to learn about connection circles and causal connections maps as a way to identify interdependencies in systems.

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Tool #7: Causal Loop Diagrams Part 1: Reinforcing Feedback

Causal loop diagrams show feedback relationships that make up systems. Here you will learn about reinforcing feedback and how to draw it as one of the two types of causal loops.

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Tool #8: Causal Loop Diagrams Part 2: Balancing Feedback

Learn about balancing feedback, which is one of two types of causal loops.

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Tool #9: Causal Loop Diagrams Part 3: Bringing Reinforcing and Balancing Loops Together

Explore various ways to use both reinforcing and balancing feedback loops to map a system of interest.