System thinking & feedback loops illustration

Tackle wicked problems better with Systems Thinking


‘Systems Thinking’ is one of 30 techniques included in our PLAYBOOK, the free toolkit for creative thinkers.


Problems don’t tend to happen in isolation. They tend to be part of complex dynamic webs of interconnected elements and events. Systems Thinking helps us understand those interactions and their effects.

Looking at the whole


Rather than focusing on component parts, Systems Thinking sees the whole as a dynamic entity. It explores the forces, interactions and feedback loops to find leverage that can positively affect the overall health of the system.


You can download the worksheet below.

Systems Thinking worksheet
Systems Thinking worksheet

Map forces and loops

Look for areas where causes and effects feed into each other, and capture these patterns as dynamic loops. Identify how changes in one element affects changes in the next element in the loop:


  • positive feedback re-enforces how an element changes;


  • negative feedback balances or counters how an element changes.


These loops will become the building blocks for your systems map.

Find leverage points

A key premise of Systems Thinking is that sustaining large-scale system change only happens if the patterns that drive the system are changed. Look for areas in your system where a small change could leverage larger system-wide change.



The worksheet is included in our free PLAYBOOK, a collection of 30 of our favourite tools and techniques. Download them all now in the PLAYBOOK.


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