These are just a few of the ways that people define the term “systems thinking.”

Definition 1

“What do we mean when we say ‘systems thinking?'” We can use the phrase to refer to a set of tools – such as causal loop diagrams, stock and flow diagrams and simulation models – that help us map and explore dynamic complexity. We can also use it to mean a unique perspective on reality – a perspective that sharpens our awareness of whole and of how the parts within those wholes interrelate. Finally, systems thinking can refer to a special vocabulary with which we express our understanding of dynamic complexity. For example, systems thinkers often describe the world in terms of reinforcing and balancing processes, limits, delays, patterns of behavior over time, and so forth.” – Barry Richmond, isee systems, inc.


By Michael Hartl, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.


Definition 2

“Systems thinking is a vantage point from which you see a whole, a web of relationships, rather than focusing only on the detail of any particular piece. Events are seen in the larger context of a pattern that is unfolding over time.”
isee systems, inc.






By Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, Public Domain.

Definition 3

Systems thinking is a perspective of seeing and understanding systems as wholes rather than as collections of parts.  A whole is a web of interconnections that creates emerging patterns.