Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Microstory 952: Systems Thinking

You might be asking Google right now, what is systems thinking? Well, tab back over here, because I’m going to tell you myself. Throughout the history of problem-solving, people have primarily used a process of analysis in order to understand how something works. What you do when you analyze something is break it down into its constituent parts, and try to figure out how those work. You break it down as as much as possible, until breaking them any further would lead to fractions. For instance, let’s say you’re trying to learn about computer hardware. You would open up the casing, and start removing the parts. You have the hard drive, the memory cards, processor, logic board, etc. A hard drive is made up of the platters, circuits, spindle, etc. The processor is made of God knows what, and so on. Once you understand how each part operates independently, you would theoretically know everything you could about the whole computer. But this isn’t true, is it? Because a memory card isn’t useful unless you can process the information. A hard drive might as well have no data unless you can read it. You won’t be able to change anything about the information without input/output devices, and nothing in a computer matters one lick unless you can interface with it using some kind of monitor. The lesson here is that the entire computer, and how all parts work together, is what gives us the best understanding of the topic. One of the most famous explanations for this comes from a leader in the field of systems thinking named Russell Ackoff. He puts forth the hypothetical of trying to build the absolute best automobile in the world by taking the best individual parts from other vehicles. Maybe this one has the best pistons, and this other the best gas tank. The reality is that this is an impossible endeavor, because those parts wouldn’t fit together, because they were designed to fit in different respective cars.

I’m passionate about systems thinking, because of how interconnected all of my stories are. I’m not just telling all these little stories, and claiming that they take place within the same continuity. I have to understand how each one can impact the others, and the greater mythology. If I decide that Jane Doe from Story Y is the mother of John Smith from Story X—which I wrote first—then I have to remember that Jane Doe can’t die in her story, until she’s birthed her son. If in Story Z, I decide I want John Smith to have a younger brother named James, then I won’t be able to do it, unless I decide James was adopted, or John’s half brother. I spent years not releasing a single word from any of my stories so that I could build my world. I know how astral travel works, and where the astral planes come from. I know why the subspecies known as anomalies took longer to evolve than the ambers, and I know how it’s possible for someone to be born as both. I have a list of galaxies, their stars, and the planets revolving around them. I have a timeline that starts at the beginning of time, and ends at the end of it. Whenever I come up with something knew, I have to find a way to fit it into the preexisting mythos, and if that’s not possible, then I have to create a separate universe to allow its existence, or simply scrap the project. There is a place for analysis, but systems thinking is an overall superior technique for learning something. The best leaders have a working comprehension of their whole domain, which is what we need right now. If you want that too, then come these next two elections, #votethemout.

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