System is defined as: ”A set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole or ”A set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.
Universe is a system. Our bodies, habits and skills are systems. Most of the things we do are systems. Some systems are consisted on smaller subsystems like our bodies have skin, organs, etc. Latticework of mental models is an example of a thinking system.
Self-reinforcing and self-stabilizing systems and delays
Universe is always expanding. The interest on interest compounds the debt. In self-reinforcing systems, the previous outputs of the systems change the inputs coming into the systems and amplify the outputs coming out of the system. What happens is that eventually self-reinforcing system gets to the point where the amplifying destroys the whole system. The other possibility is that the limit of growth comes to the point where the growth stops, slows, diverts or reverses. When this happens, the system becomes self-stabilizing.
In self-stabilizing systems the previous outputs of the systems changes the inputs by stopping, slowing, diverting or reversing the growth of the outputs. This self-correction keeps the system working without exploding. Every natural system has an optimal growth rate. We should use them into our advantage. Our skin keeps the temperature of our body from overheating by sweating if we are in an environment in which the temperature is too high or we are exercising. It can be hard to notice these balancing processes, even though they are mostly necessary. We should keep the self-reinforcing and self-stabilizing systems and their interaction in balance. We should always limit the effect of self-stabilizing processes on self-reinforcing processes in balance.
All the systems have delays. People have a natural tendency in concentrating on the consequences we see right after we have done something. The second and third order consequences may come after a long delay. In complex systems, consequences can come after years. We may concentrate on the symptoms, rather than the solutions because of delays. Some system structures have unrecognized delays and they can lead wrong solutions. We should have better awareness about the delays. And we should also remember that causes and effects are not always close in time. When we notice a delay, we should try to shorten it as much as possible.
Small changes in systems can create big results
This happens in individual circumstances as well as in systems. Well-focused small actions aimed for changing the system can create surprisingly big results. Solving a difficult problem can be a matter of finding the system structure in which the small change deliver the big and lasting results. Most of the times, finding these structures is hard. We need to understand the system and how its parts interact with each other. Otherwise we will never find the right structures for these high leverage improvements. We cannot do this without understanding the system as a whole.
Reacting to the change in the system is a lot easier than truly understanding its cause-effect relationships and ways to improve it with small changes. Reacting to the change can be a bad thing. It may cause small changes to the system structure creating bigger problems through self-reinforcing processes. Changing a system structure can have different consequences in the short run and in the long run. Different parts of the systems can also have different consequences caused by the small changes. We also have to think about interactions of the parts before changing anything in one part of the system.
Most of the results in your life depend on the quality of your systems
We are mostly focusing on the different parts of our systems in a particular moment without thinking about the system as a whole or any long-term consequences. Our systems can deliver results that exceed the sums of their parts by a large margin. They can also deliver results that are not even close to the sums of their parts. People using the same systems tend to produce similar results. When we do not change our systems we cannot expect different results. Most of the time, the results we get are not caused by other people, some particular conditions, bad luck or some other explanations. The reason for bad results are the systems or their implementation or our understanding of them. We should think a lot more about the quality of our systems or their subsystems. Then we can get better results. We cannot really improve ourselves without improving our systems.