Growing Wings on the Way: Systems Thinking for Messy Situations. Rosalind Armson

Review: Growing Wings on the way: Systems thinking for messy situations. Rosalind Armson.

This book is an introductory text to systems thinking. The author draws on her extensive experience as a teacher, consultant and problem solver as she introduces her approach to this powerful approach to understanding and making progress with, what she describes as, “messes”. Unlike the problems presented in maths, science and economics lessons, “messes” are multifaceted and there are no clear cut answers. The best we can do is follow general heuristics to improve the outcomes.

Reading and reflecting on the messages, I find Rosalind’s approach useful; particularly, her emphasis on the use of hand drawn pictures and diagrams as the problem solver seeks to understand and act in a “mess”. One chapter that I have found particularly helpful deals with “traps”. Practically, the explainable of common traps and how to escape is helpful. How to escape: be prepared to re-evaluate your options at the fundamental understanding level, and find a way to walk away. Another useful hint; watch out for addiction to the stress and excitement of the trap itself.

There is much more here. Rosalind introduces a systematic approach to understanding and improving messiness using six visual diagrams: rich pictures, systems maps, influence diagrams, input-transformation-output models and human activity systems diagrams. By using these approaches progress can be made. She adds, that with an open attitude: enthusiasm, humility, curiosity and respect – for the mess and the people in the mess – then a plan can developed; the mess improved.

I have one quibble, other books introduce and use stock-and-flow diagrams, this would be an useful addition.

There is much, much more in this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is stuck in a “mess”



About sustainabilityandbeauty

My passion is telling the stories of possibility, seeking a sustainable and beautiful future. My training is in science, chemistry, environmental science and teaching.
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