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Systems Works: Building capability to think in systems by understanding daily problems

Format: Workshops, RSD11, Topic: Health & Well-being, Topic: Methods & Methodology, Topic: Sociotechnical Systems

Rohan Walsh and John Rbeiz

As design practice has expanded into complex, interconnected problems (Buchanan, 1992), termed Wicked Problems by Horst & Rittel (1973); new ways of seeing may be required to address complexity. Systems Thinking is one methodology to approach this, working to understand the elements and the relationships between them.

However, many resources that exist to explain Systems Thinking are highly theoretical, academic or lack application to a commonly understood problem. Due to this, Systems Thinking as a methodology may prove inaccessible for a layperson to develop their own ability to think in Systems; and therefore may be unable to understand how to effect change on a Wicked Problem.

This project aims to reduce complexity by focusing on a localised context, in daily problems we all face; such as how to get a good night’s sleep. This example has been utilised as we are all citizen designers in this respect, and would be able to identify elements that potentially affect our sleep quality individually; and from there identify past, present and/or future systems interventions to positively impact our sleep quality.

By paring back this complexity to an individual challenge, we can reflect on our systemic design practice outside of existing methodology, also allowing those new to systemic practice to develop understanding of concepts such as causality, and understand the consequences of their action in a localised setting. In understanding causality and consequence of our actions, we can also further develop understanding through reflexive loops (Richmond, 2018) and move up the Ladder of Inference, as proposed by Argyris (1990).

This workshop will employ both individual reflection and a group reflection to explore our own relation to sleep and its quality, and in doing so demonstrate the overlap between our own individual circumstances; allowing us to develop a cumulative perspective that may help envision possibilities outside of our own perspective and/or bias(es).




Citation Data

Author(s): Rohan Walsh and John Rbeiz
Year: 2022
Title: Systems Works: Building capability to think in systems by understanding daily problems
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 059
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 30 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404