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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about systems thinking. They reject the notion of cause and effect and instead posit the idea that everything is an emergent property of a system.

In this podcast on Systems Thinking and the Illusion of Cause-and-Effect you’ll find:

  • There is no such thing as Cause and Effect but only “Emergent Properties of Systems”
  • Systems Thinking is a way of thinking or interacting with reality that is different from basic Cause and Effect.
  • When we try to create influenced results, we end up having limited influence over it because we are not seeing the other Influencers or Nodes in the system.
  • To have a desired result, recognize that nodes have to work in a certain way to have an “emergent” (thing that emerges from all things working together).
  • We turn to Cause and Effect thinking because things are too complex to understand and because it is easier to fuse Sequential events.
  • A System is a cluster of themes working together influencing each other; doing things synchronously and asynchronously and brings about an inevitable emergent.
  • Two things to keep in mind about systems:
  1. Initial Condition (starting condition of a system)
  2. How the nodes in the system interact with each other
  • Systems thinking is more accurate than Cause and Effect thinking. It improves relationships and gives more favorable results.
  • Raymond Kurzweil’s Theory of Singularity states that Technology doubles in an exponential growth curve. Singularity is the time period where technology is doubling too fast to observe.
  • The value of node connections is going up while the cost of information is lowering down.
  • Intuition is needed now more than ever to figure which systems to work on, how systems are working and how to manage information.
  • Gregory Bateson (Author, Steps to an Ecology of Mind) states “Systems are delicate. We don’t see them so we break them”.


Things we reference in this podcast:

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  • Eric Rayl
    • Eric Rayl
    • November 14, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks for another great episode. I’m so glad that a podcast like this exists. It’s basically everything cool and interesting in my mind (about personality psychology) all wrapped up into one nice little gift basket. Every week you guys tackle some new angle or aspect of personality and it’s all so very interesting!

    As for systems thinking, I found this to be very compelling. I suppose I always “knew” things/events/situations happened like this, but I never really considered it in-depth. But it makes so much sense, and I agree completely. I have a more holistic mindset to begin with though, so converting me probably wasn’t much of a challenge! ;)

    One comment that I would like to provide has to do with the concept you guys brought up regarding the necessity of having more Intuitive thought as a requirement for success in the accelerating information environment in which we live. Or, as information increases, so does our necessity to become more intuitive, as a species as a whole. This makes sense.

    I was actually thinking about this the other day before I heard this podcast. I was thinking of the use and increasing popularity of the word “meta” in our language. Consider the fact that as we get more and more options in our media-rich environment, we also get more and more self-aware statements and references. No longer is a sit-com just a sit-com, but it is a “snarky” sit-com which is heavy on irony and self-considereation. Shows like these and every other type of media (commercial, movie, song, podcast, book, magazine, journal, etc) all have examples like this where the thing that it is remarking on is actually the thing that it actually is. It’s like the Buddha watching Buddha (Paik). As examples like these seem to be growing in our contemporary time, I would make the guess that we (as a species) are actually in the process of shifting towards a more Intuitive thought preference. This increase of self-referential behavior can be noted within just the last 5-10 years even. The idea and concept of “meta” in our popular vocabulary may be the “canary in the coalmine” for the shift towards more Intuitive thought preferences in this information-heavy age. But, of course, it would have to be as how else could we examine how the engine of car works while it is, at the same time, driving down the freeway at 60mph?

  • Julian Lee
    • Julian Lee
    • November 14, 2014 at 9:27 am

    “Avatar” by James Cameron is a good example of systems thinking in movies, along with “The Butterfly Effect” with Ashton Kutcher, and the animated sci-fi film “Wall-E”. As for books, “Dune” by Frank Herbert is a great example, and so were a lot of novels and short stories by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein. Frank Lloyd Wright was one the best systems thinkers and wrote many essays books, on architecture, that are full of systems and ecological thinking.

  • Frederick
    • Frederick
    • November 13, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Kind of make sense. I probably should have asked a different question, how can somebody could develop this systems thinking skill? This is probably a better question :)

    Is it something that will emerge naturally over time because your brain actually needs to create the wiring to think in this way or you simply need to train yourself in thinking in this way?

  • Antonia Dodge
    • Antonia Dodge
    • November 13, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Hey, Frederick!

    It’s not so much that every component is 100% responsible for the system to work, it’s that each component (or, “node”) plays an important role and it’s important to figure out 1) what that role is, 2) if it’s doing its job correctly, and 3) how the nodes are interacting with each other.

    Like we mentioned in the podcast, the windshield wipers aren’t as important to the car starting up as is the engine. But in some systems it’s not as obvious which parts are more/less influential. That’s why systems thinking requires thoughtfulness and care.

    The 80/20 principle is more about understanding ROI – which investments are worth your time/effort. When you’re seeking a specific emergent, is it worth the trouble to seek that emergent? Is it going to be 80% of your time for 20% of the return? If so, it may not be worth even diving into that particular system.

    So, they aren’t directly correlated, but there is some overlap between the models (as there generally is with most models).

    Make sense?


  • Antonia Dodge
    • Antonia Dodge
    • November 13, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    I’m so glad the stuff we’ve produced is providing value for you!

    I get what you’re saying about connecting with others. Finding other Intuitives to talk with is pretty vital. You can definitely connect with Sensors as well, but there is something about Intuitive conversation that is basically food for N’s.

    That said, I created a video about communication between Sensors and Intuitives and what I believe is the most helpful model. Check it out and see if it works for you:


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