Problem Solving By Systems

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Quinn shows how most of us believe the educational system is designed to create intelligent, thoughtful citizens, and because of that assumption, we often conclude that the system is failing.

He argues that in reality we should instead look at what the educational system does do well, which is create a great number of people prepared to enter the lower ranks of a hierarchical workforce, and see that it is doing quite well in that respect.

For instance, if we give a person medication and they don't instantly get better, it would be dangerous to decide we need to give them more medication immediately, when in reality we simply need to wait for the medication they already received to kick in.

Systems Thinking can help us remain aware of the time delays between the onset and effects of feedback relationships.

However, the problem of youngsters joining gangs is often related to family dysfunction in the homes of those youngsters.

And the family issues may be related to unemployment, and so on.The greater family dysfunction may increase the likelihood of youngsters seeking a sense of identity, security or rebellion through gangs.This type of feedback, in which an increase in one factor leads to an increase in another, is called a positive feedback cycle. In that system, as the temperature (factor 1) increases, the heat (factor 2) gets turned down, to keep the system in balance.Imagine a child who lacks self-esteem and therefore is doing poorly in school.His parents, with the best of intentions, may begin to put pressure on him to do better in school.If we want the educational system to create intelligent, thoughtful citizens, it will have to be redesigned.Systems Thinking can help us see that "failing" systems may really simply be designed for a purpose other than what we assume or have been told.However, this pressure may backfire, as the child may simply feel even worse about his failing grades and this additional stress may lead to a further decrease in grades, exactly the opposite of the outcome the parents had intended.Systems Thinking can help us avoid unintended consequences by making us aware of how they may be created by previously unrecognized feedback cycles or delays.- In the above example, gang violence, family dysfunction and unemployment affect each other through feedback cycles.When unemployment increases, this may lead to increased stress on families and therefore greater dysfunction.


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