Thinking in Systems: A Primer

Thinking in Systems: A Primer

Hardback

By (author) Diana Wright, By (author) Donella H. Meadows

List price $132.78

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  • Publisher: Earthscan Ltd
  • Format: Hardback | 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 234mm x 23mm | 516g
  • Publication date: 26 February 2009
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 184407725X
  • ISBN 13: 9781844077250
  • Illustrations note: Figures, index
  • Sales rank: 1,072,957

Product description

Thinking in Systems is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem-solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. 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. 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 continue to learn. 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. A vital read for students, professionals and all those concerned with economics, business, sustainability and the environment

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Author information

Donella Meadows was a pioneering environmental scientist, author, teacher, and farmer widely considered ahead of her time. She was one of the world's foremost systems analysts and lead author of the influential Limits to Growth. She was Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College, the founder of the Sustainability Institute and cofounder of the International Network of Resource Information Centers.

Review quote

'The publication of Thinking in Systems is a landmark ... This book is destined to shape our understanding of socio-ecological systems in the years to come in much the same way that Silent Spring taught us to understand the nature of ecosystems in the 1960s and 1970s.' Oran R. Young, Professor, Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara '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 coauthor of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution 'When I read Thinking in Systems I am reminded of the enormity of the gap between systemic thinkers and policy makers. If this book helps narrow the gap, it will be Dana's greatest contribution.' Lester Brown, Founder and President, Earth Policy Institute 'Dana Meadows was one of the smartest people I ever knew, able to figure out the sensible answer to almost any problem. This book explains how she thought, and hence is of immense value to those of us who often wonder what she'd make of some new problem. A classic.' Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy 'An invaluable companion piece to Limits to Growth, this is also a useful standalone overview of systems-based problem solving, a simple book about a complex world graced by the wisdom of a profound thinker committed to shap[ing] a better future.' Publishers Weekly 'In Dana Meadows's brilliantly integrative worldview, everything causes everything else; cause and effect loop back on themselves. She was the clearest thinker and writer co-creating the art and science of systems dynamics, and Thinking in Systems distills her lifetime of wisdom. This clear, fun-to-read synthesis will help diverse readers everywhere to grasp and harness how our complex world really works.' Amory B. Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute and co-author of Natural Capitalism 'Dana Meadows' exposition in this book exhibits a degree of clarity and simplicity that can only be attained by one who profoundly and honestly understands the subject at hand--in this case systems modeling. Many thanks to Diana Wright for bringing this extra legacy from Dana to us.' Herman Daly, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland at College Park 'The publication of Thinking in Systems is a landmark ... Dana Meadows' final contribution is the best and most accessible introduction to this way of thinking we have. This book is destined to shape our understanding of socio-ecological systems in the years to come in much the same way that Silent Spring taught us to understand the nature of ecosystems in the 1960s and 1970s.' Oran R. Young, Professor, Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara 'An extremely interesting read, and in particular relevant for people dealing with changes in complex structures, such as organisations, architectures, or business processes ... Absolutely recommended.' Enterprise Agility 'An inspiring sequel to Dana Meadows' lifetime of seminal contributions to systems thinking, this highly accessible book should be read by everyone concerned with the world's future and how we can make it as good as it possibly can be.' Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden 'Dana Meadows taught a generation of students, friends, and colleagues the art and science of thinking beyond conventional boundaries. For her systems thinking included the expected things like recognizing patterns, connections, leverage points, feedback loops and also the human qualities of judgment, foresight, and kindness. She was a teacher with insight and heart. This long anticipated book, the distillation of her life's work, is a gem.' David Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College 'Reading Thinking in Systems evokes the wisdom and even the voice of Dana Meadows. We are reminded of how she was not only one of the great systems thinkers, but also one of our greatest teachers. This is modestly called a primer, and indeed it is, but unlike most books with that title, this one quickly takes one from the elementary into deep systems thinking about issues as critical today as they were when Dana wrote these words ... following the insights of this book and applying them will provide for far more effective solutions to the challenges of a 7 billion person planet than current incremental, linear responses by governments, corporations and individuals.' Bill Moomaw, Professor of International Environmental Policy at the Fletcher School, Tufts University 'offers an excellent introduction...it is a mark of the primer's success that it will not take much effort for readers to apply systems theory to the latter for themsleves.' Alistair Brown, Green World.

Table of contents

Introduction * Systems Structures and Behaviour * The Basics * A Brief Visit to the Systems Zoo * Systems and Us * Why Systems Work So Well * Why Systems Surprise Us * System Traps and Opportunities * Creating Change in Systems and Philosophy* Leverage Points - Places to Intervene in a System * Living in a World of Systems *Appendices * Index