Being more systems savvy

What questions does this title prompt?

  • What is meant by “systems savvy”?
  • How systems savvy am I?
  • How systems savvy are the organisations of which I am part?
  • What is the value in being (more) systems savvy?
  • Why should I bother thinking, reading or trying to be (more) systems savvy?

Being (more) savvy

Let’s start with some synonyms for “savvy”

shrewdness, astuteness, sharp-wittedness, sharpness, acuteness, acumen, acuity, intelligence, wit, canniness, common sense, discernment, insight, understanding, penetration, perception, perceptiveness, perspicacity, knowledge, sagacity, sageness

“savvy” reflects the degree to which we understand “things” and can apply our knowledge and understanding to “things” and how we create, maintain and use these “things”.

Systems

Now, what about “systems”?

“systems” are one of the common ways in which we make sense of “things”, how they work and how to change how they work. In one respect, “systems” are a figment of our imagination. Why do I say that? Well, often different people view, describe and understand the same “system” in different ways. Lots of systems are sufficiently large and complex that we can’t know all that there is to know about the system. What we know about the system is influenced by:

  • what we know, in general
  • what we observe and experience in seeing and interacting with the system

Since that is different for each person, it is not surprising that the same system can seem different to different people. Hence, I find it helpful to appreciate that others probably have “a different system in mind” than the one in my mind.

Systems savvy

So, when we speak of being systems savvy, we mean that a person appreciates the finer points of understanding, designing, realising, and operating an entity through the lens of “systems” and is effective in designing, realising, operating, maintaining and changing “systems”.

Here are a couple of critical elements that are brought to bear in thinking about systems:

  • every system is part of a bigger (containing) system
  • many systems include feedback mechanisms

Every system is potentially part of more than just one containing system, prompting us to consider how a system-in-focus must operate in the context of being a part of a greater whole, where the other parts impact on the system-in-focus as much (or sometimes more) than any change to the parts of the system-in-focus might realise.

The feedback mechanisms enable the system to adjust to external factors over which the system-in-focus may have no “control” ie. they are open systems (when often “closed system” thinking is applied to their design and operation).

In particular, we also mean that a systems savvy person appreciates and practices the finer points relating to “social systems” – systems composed of people. Why? Because there are a number of critical differences between social systems and other systems.

Social systems

There is much to explore and understand about social systems – hence, our interest in continuing to:

  • explore new territory in this field
  • apply our learnings
  • share our learnings

Here are a couple of the most critical differences from our perspective. Social systems are:

  • self-designing, self-realising, self-operating, self-maintaining
  • reflective of how we make sense of the way in which we work or should work together
  • often the means by which we conceive, design, realise, operate and maintain other systems

Further elaboration on social systems is provided in a separate article.

Being brain savvy

Given that systems exist in our minds, as we learn more about how our minds work, we have the opportunity to change how we deal with systems in our minds.

Understanding more about how we think, feel, act and learn and applying this understanding is what is encompassed in being “brain savvy”.

So, we are interested in:

  • being more brain savvy
  • enabling us to be even more systems savvy

A range of different elements that are important to understanding systems, and how we govern, design, realise, operate and change them are explored in other articles, which can be found in this index.

Who are we? We are Associates with Interface Consultants. We offer services aimed at helping clients become more brain and systems savvy.

Interface Consultants are holding a lunch and learn event on being more brain and systems savvy. Further details are available on EventBrite.

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