Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Meeting global health challenges through operational research and management science

Geoff Royston

Volume 89, Number 9, September 2011, 683-688

Table 1. Differences between traditional thinking and systems thinking skills

Traditional skill Systems thinking skill
Static thinking: focusing on particular events Dynamic thinking: framing a problem in terms of a pattern of behaviour over time
System-as-effect thinking: viewing behaviour generated by a system as driven by external forces System-as-cause thinking: placing responsibility for a behaviour on internal actors who manage the policies and “plumbing” of the system
Tree-by-tree thinking: believing that knowing something well means focusing on the details Forest thinking: believing that knowledge requires understanding the context of relationships
Factors thinking: listing factors that influence or are correlated with some result Operational thinking: concentrating on causality and understanding how a behaviour is generated
Straight-line thinking: viewing causality as running in one direction, with each cause independent from other causes Closed-loop thinking: viewing causality as an ongoing process, not a one-time event, with effects influencing causes and causes affecting one another

Source: Richmond.22