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Thinking in Systems: A Primer [Kindle Edition]

Meadows. Donella , Diana Wright
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'Thinking in Systems is required reading for anyone hoping to run a successful company, community or country. Learning how to think in systems is now part of change-agent literacy. And this is the best book of its kind.' Hunter Lovins, founder and President of Natural Capital Solutions and co-author of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution.


In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet— Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.

Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life.

Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.

While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.


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4.0 von 5 Sternen
4.0 von 5 Sternen
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15 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Die Ameise, die mal Bundestag sein will. 16. März 2010
Von Tim S.
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Was haben die Umwelt, der Bundestag und eine Ameise gemeinsam? Sie alle können als Systeme aufgefasst werden. Dieses Buch von Donella Meadows erklärt einfach die Grundlagen. Von Lagern (stocks) bis hin zur Selbstorganisation wird der Grundaufbau eines Systems behandelt.

Doch Objektivität und geprüfte Fakten hätten dem Buch nicht geschadet. Das Skript auf dem das Buch basiert wurde etwa 1992 verfasst, dennoch sind einige Fehler in diesem Buch enthalten, die auch damals schon bekannt waren. Die teilweise sehr subjektiven und ideologischen Texte stören meines Erachtens das Verständnis. Gerade bei solch einem generellen Werkzeug, wie der Systemtheorie sollte man objektiv bleiben.

Fazit: Grundlagenbuch zum Thema Systemtheorie mit subjektiver Färbung.
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1 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Very interesting but sometimes a bit basic 29. Januar 2013
Von blik
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Positive points:
+ Very clear structure
+ Good for beginners
+ Lots of examples

Negative points:
- Can be a bit repetitive if you understood the concept after the first example
- I still haven't figured out how to use what I learned in the book at work or in my private life

This books provides the basics to describe all types of systems in a synthetic overview. A lot of examples help understand it, but it remains general and it's not easy to implement the concept.
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5 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen must read 18. Mai 2009
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
This is a must read for those who want to understand the "why". Great introduction in why organizaitons, companies, communities behave as they do. Why we have difficulties to manage the fishing in oceans and why the rich become more rich. No math (for those who would be frighted :-))
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.5 von 5 Sternen  182 Rezensionen
195 von 207 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting Perspective on Systems 19. März 2009
Von J. Finkel - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
While earning my degree in Mechanical Engineering, I was constantly bombarded by all kinds of systems. Thinking in systems is a critical part of many areas of engineering. Whether you are looking at an electrical circuit, an ecosystem, HVAC, pot roast or a nuclear reactor, there are many similarities in behavior and structure. Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows does a great job demonstrating the purpose and approach of mapping everything and anything to a logical system.

The first half of the book introduces the reader gently to the basics of what a system is and how they are defined. You'll learn about feedback loops, flows and stocks. I found this section repetitive, basic and boring. However, if you haven't had this stuff drilled into your head for four years, it may have more to offer you.

The second half of the book I found incredibly informative and interesting. The author departs from an engineering perspective here and you'll see less and less charts and diagrams at this point. Chapters five and six discuss common reasons why systems fail and how to help them succeed. There are some quirky assumptions we seem to erroneously make over and over. The author is kind enough to lay them out plainly so you don't fall victim to the same mistakes (though you surely will).

The real joy of this book is the reason I wanted to become an engineer: it helps you understand more about the world around you. Thinking in Systems can apply to just about anything. It's a pretty powerful concept that could help you more logically organize your problem solving at work or home. This book only offers a basic introduction, but even with a degree in a related science, I still learned a lot (mostly in chapters 5 and 6). If you do pick it up and enjoy it, I'd recommend checking out some (slightly) more technical offering that delve into a wider range of systems modeling with higher math.
77 von 88 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen THE handbook for living 12. Januar 2009
Von Carolyn Thornlow - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
In a nutshell, this book is about systems. So much more than this, it is a journey into the meta-rules of how the universe and everything in it comes and "plays" together. There is one thing to be understood that applies to physiology, businesses, economies, plants and puppies alike. Everything is a system. And all systems have behaviors and rules. As Donella Meadows writes: "The to recognize what structures contain which latent behaviors, and what conditions release those behaviors -- and where possible to arrange the structures and conditions to reduce the probability of destructive behaviors and to encourage the possibility of beneficial ones."

Grasping "the whole universe" is certainly a momumental task. The book brilliantly presents concepts in very graspable units. She starts with picturing what a system is -- a stock with inflows and outflows that affect its stability and all of which are further affected by feedback loops and delays.

So armed with this model, individuals may be better guided in their decisions and actions as it becomes clear that actions can beget other actions and reactions (or unintended consequences.) But there is even more complexity. For instance, policies are a way to control the stocks and flows within a system. However, one of several behavior archetypes is policy resistance which comes from the bounded rationality of the actors within a system, each with his or her own goal. Meadows takes the reader on a deep and thought-provoking journey through all the behavior archetypes of systems. The result is an empowering "forewarned is forearmed" knowledge.

That is the ultimate goal of this book. When people affect positive change in the world -- and it just may be everyone's duty to do that -- it is through smart and correct controls on a system. Ms. Meadows then gives the knowledge to do this. She lays out the leverage points in any system -- the opportunities for making things right or better. The coda is a legacy of thoughts to live by, the last and perhaps most important of which is "Don't Erode the Goal of Goodness."

With such profound applicability, this book is the handbook for living. Everyone on the planet should read it.
72 von 83 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Very useful introduction 16. April 2009
Von J. B Kraft - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
I first learned and practiced systems analysis back in the 1970s, and it's a skill that seems neglected in the training of many young professionals I come in contact with.

"Thinking in Systems: A Primer" is a book I hoped would be informative and accessible for people who need to develop the skill or just refresh their own talents. It does present its subject systematically and without confusing jargon.

While I found the writing clear and well-organized in its development and presentation of the subject, I found many of the illustrations less than helpful. I would have liked a less holistic and more concrete development of the analysis of the examples in the book.

For use as a textbook, an appendix with a glossary of terms of art and sybols would be very helpful. Nonetheless, reading this will give the novice an appreciation of what systems analysis is, and why it is critical to problem solving. Its informal approach may be more suited for young people today than a more formal and rigidly structured treatment.
114 von 141 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Freshman Initiation 13. Juli 2010
Von F. Mullen - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
In her "Note from the Editor," Diana Wright advises the reader that the manuscript for "Thinking in Systems" went unpublished for eight years before Dana Meadows' unfortunate death. Perhaps there was a reason for that: perhaps Dana Meadows recognized that the manuscript was not ready for publication. For the text is uncertain whether it is an introduction to systems analysis as a scientific endeavor, a tableau of counter-intuitive results "explained" by "systems thinking", or a pseudo-analytic basis for the usual policy preferences of the political left. In its raw form, it is a mish-mash of these and other incomplete themes, so by the end you're not sure what the point was.

Were it an introductory text in systems analysis for freshman students of English literature, the first four chapters might be ok. Meadows introduces the notions of stocks, inputs, and outputs in a way that could persuade a non-technical reader that systems analysis was a quantitative science and that the relevant quantities might be computed so long as students from another department were available. She also introduces the notion of feedback and discusses the qualitatively different forms of output resulting from positive or negative feedback. She even discusses the effects on the output of varying feedback delay. This may be about as far as you can go without introducing any math, and as Meadows did not introduce any math, this also might have been a good place to stop.

But sadly, the editors chose to publish what came next. Next was chapter 5, "Systems Traps...and Opportunities." Here we find discussions of a variety of very complicated systems--Romanian and Swedish abortion policy, for example--whose analysis is beyond most humans, let alone freshman literature students. From these discussions Meadows derives generalized "systems traps" and "ways out".

Her first trap, for example, is called "policy resistance": "When various actors try to pull a system stock toward various goals, ...[it] just pulls the stock farther from the goals of the other actors and produces additional resistance...." Translation: people disagree. And here's the "way out": "Let go. Bring in all the actors and use the energy formerly expended on resistance to seek out mutually satisfactory ways for all goals to be realized...." Translation: can't we all just get along. And so on. The "traps" and "ways out" are of a nature so obtuse as to defy any sort of concrete analysis, and as insights they are the sort that cease to seem profound after sophomore year.

And it gets worse. Chapter 6, "Leverage Points--Places to Intervene in a System," might have been a good place to discuss system sensitivity analysis--in a qualitative way, of course--but instead it leans heavily toward the justification of pet liberal causes like environmentalism, government regulation of industry ("The power of big industry calls for the power of big government...; a global economy makes global regulations necessary"), and high taxes on anyone with more wealth than a Dartmouth professor. Chapter 7, "Living in a World of Systems," sets new standards for sentimental whole-earthism, recommending, on the strength of "the tool of systems thinking," that the future be "brought lovingly into being," that we learn to "dance with great powers" as the Eskimo "have turned snow into ... a system with which they can dance." Be caring, be good: these are the final admonishments before the book, thankfully, ends.

In addition, there is economic illiteracy displayed throughout, as for example this, which follows an inept discussion of Adam Smith's "invisible hand": "Economic theory as derived from Adam Smith assumes first that 'homo economicus' acts with perfect optimality on complete information, and second that when many of the species 'homo economicus' do that, their actions add up to the best possible outcome for everybody." This is utter nonsense. Smith says nothing about perfection of optimality nor completeness of information. He merely observes that, in the aggregate, a collection of humans seeking their individual interests often advances the economic welfare of society as a whole. And he certainly does not assert that everybody will arrive at "the best possible outcome." The "invisible hand" operates even in the presence of individual failure and distress, and in some ways because of them.

Winding up for the conclusion, Meadows admits that "[s]ystems thinking has taught me to trust my intuition more and my figuring-out rationality less...." If you've gotten this far in the book, you will certainly agree, for in writing it she gave intuition free rein while rationality was on the Costa del Sol. If you're a student of Dana Meadows, this book will give you considerable insight into her intuition and her prejudices. If you are simply interested in some qualitative discussion of systems, there are some not-bad introductory bits in the first four chapters. But if you're going to buy just one book on systems analysis, buy a different one.
18 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Best intro and comprehensive guide on systems 7. März 2011
Von Robert Richman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Incredibly easy to understand, comprehensive summary of systems theory. The world looks very different after reading this book, and can help anyone who is looking to create or change systems.
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