Systems Thinking

Holistic View: 10 Quotes



“[Holism is] the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution […]” (Jan Smuts, “Holism and Evolution”, 1926)

“Holism traditionally says that a collection of beings may have a collective property that cannot be inferred from the properties of its members.” (C West Churchman, “The Systems Approach and Its Enemies” , 1979)

“Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing the ‘structures’ that underlie complex situations, and for discerning high from low leverage change. That is, by seeing wholes we learn how to foster health. To do so, systems thinking offers a language that begins by restructuring how we think.” (Peter Senge, “The Fifth Discipline”, 1990)

“Systems philosophy brings forth a reorganization of ways of thinking. It creates a new worldview, a new paradigm of perception and explanation, which is manifested in integration, holistic thinking, purpose-seeking, mutual causality, and process-focused inquiry.” (Béla H. Bánáthy, “Systems Design of Education”, 1991)

“The new paradigm may be called a holistic world view, seeing the world as an integrated whole rather than a dissociated collection of parts. It may also be called an ecological view, if the term ‘ecological’ is used in a much broader and deeper sense than usual. Deep ecological awareness recognizes the fundamental interdependence of all phenomena and the fact that, as individuals and societies we are all embedded in (and ultimately dependent on) the cyclical process of nature.” (Fritjof Capra & Gunter A Pauli, “Steering business toward sustainability”, 1995)

“Understanding ecological interdependence means understanding relationships. It requires the shifts of perception that are characteristic of systems thinking — from the parts to the whole, from objects to relationships, from contents to patterns. […] Nourishing the community means nourishing those relationships.” (Fritjof Capra, “The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems”, 1996)

“ The development of systems thinking is a double-loop learning process in which we replace a reductionist, narrow, short-run, static view of the world with a holistic, broad, long-term, dynamic view and then redesign our policies and institutions accordingly.” (John D Sterman, “Business dynamics: Systems thinking and modeling for a complex world”, 2000)

“Systems thinking means the ability to see the synergy of the whole rather than just the separate elements of a system and to learn to reinforce or change whole system patterns. Many people have been trained to solve problems by breaking a complex system, such as an organization, into discrete parts and working to make each part perform as well as possible. However, the success of each piece does not add up to the success of the whole. to the success of the whole. In fact, sometimes changing one part to make it better actually makes the whole system function less effectively.” (Richard L Daft, “The Leadership Experience”, 2002)

“At a time when the world is more messy, more crowded, more interconnected, more interdependent, and more rapidly changing than ever before, the more ways of seeing, the better. The systems-thinking lens allows us to reclaim our intuition about whole systems and hone our abilities to understand parts, see interconnections, ask ‘what-if’ questions about possible future behaviors, and be creative and courageous about system redesign. (Donella H Meadows, “Thinking in Systems: A Primer”, 2008)

“Holism [is] the art — in contrast with reductionism — of seeing a complex system as a whole. Holism knows the limits to its understanding; it acknowledges that the system has its wildness, its privacy, its own reasons, its defenses against invasive explanation.” (David Fleming, “Lean Logic”, 2016)

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