What are some things I can do to practice Systems Thinking Daily?

A growing list of things to practice every day...


  1. Join the ST Daily Community where we provide daily prompts for things you can do to increase your knowledge and skill in systems thinking.
  2. Map my mental model of how an appliance works and then test that with the reality of how it works.
  3. Practice one jig for the week. We suggest starting with RDS, P Circles, Part Parties, S to P,  and R-channel.
  4. Practice one back of the napkin for the week. 
  5. Practice one slider for the week. We suggest you start with: Mental Models Cause Behavior, Integrity vs Duplicity, I am R. Hear me Rar, Relationship Sponsored by the Number 3, People As A Means vs. Ends,  Feelings and Thinkings, Destructive vs. Constructive^, Win-win or no play, The Modified Golden Rule.
  6. Play little cognitive “games” between projects.
    1. Things like “oh, what distinctions are being made in this office (the front desk of a clinic is an example of a pretty clear distinction of hospital employee vs non-employee).
  7. Map a conversation/meeting/presentation in real time.
  8. Map a spoken or written sentence.
    1. First read it aloud as you normally would. Then, map the single sentence and see how different your understanding is (much deeper). Then you can try it with paragraphs, pages, chapters, etc. The ability to map a single sentence is a very powerful way to get started with DSRP.
  9. Pay attention while watching the news to the various fine grain distinctions folks do and don’t make (also can be done for R, S, and P).
  10. When walking about in the world look for all the physical relationships (joints, elbows, interfaces, screws, glues, cords, etc) and think about how each physical relationship you see is an RDS.
  11. On walk-abouts in the world focus on one thing (D) and then break it down into parts (S). Ask, I wonder why that part exists (D)? What would happen (R) if I removed that part?
  12. Notice how you DSRP your groceries.
    1. How, for example, the Fridge /not fridge distinction is used as a perspective to sort and yield two part-whole systems. Or deli meats / uncooked meats, or chemicals / not chemicals. Or pantry /fridge.
  13. Take an item (D) like apples, sandals, shirts, birds, elk and google to see how many sub-distinctions that item has.
    1. Now realize that when we say “x” distinction we mean a whole system (S) of things!
    2. A variant on this is to play a game to find the “edge” or boundary of what makes a sandal (or any item). Example, what is a sandwich and is a hotdog a sandwich?
  14. Get some cheap colored glasses like the ones in the movie theater or a blue or red light and see how the light filter acts as a perspective on all the things you look at. 
    1. Ask yourself: is color an interaction (R) effect of the point and the view or is it inherent in the item being distinguished?
  15. When you’re standing in line waiting (at a store, cafe, etc) break down the process into a part-party and try to distinguish the key places where the delays are being created. Then share those insights with the workers and see what they say. Then share them with the owners.
  16. Make a Dio list of all the things a thing is and is not to better understand any thing. Create two columns in your head or on paper with “is” and “is not” at the top.
    1. When you’re done realize that you have developed a deeper understanding of what something is using identity-other but you've also created two part-whole systems that form this distinction.
  17. Take two really really really close synonyms and try to distinguish what makes them different.
    1. Here’s a few to get started: cup/mug; AWD/4WD; class/course;empathy/compassion; innovation/invention...
  18. Look at any room you’re in from the perspective of X. Then fill in the X with super random stuff like “red” or “weapon” or “giraffe” and see what your mind does.
  19. Get on Plectica (or on paper or in your head) and do one or all of the following without considering any content in the map.
    1. Make a bunch of identities (squares rectangles or circles) and then connect them (R) with lines. Go as fast as you can and make as many connections as you can.
    2. Make a bunch of identities (squares rectangles or circles) and then add three or more parts into them to make them part-whole Systems. Do it as fast as you can.
    3. Then make the parts into wholes by adding 3 or more parts. Make a bunch of identities (squares rectangles or circles) and then make each one a point and make the other ones it’s view. Do as many as you can.
  20. Next time you go for a walk - take the perspective of your eyes or ears - what can they really see and hear?
  21. Get a business card size piece of paper or post-it and write a few basic Thinkquiry questions on it. Stick it somewhere noticeable. Helps trigger your thinking on anything that might come your way during the day.
  22. When you see a bird in the sky, try to think what it sees from where it is.  Does it see you?
  23. Try engaged listening by mapping an emotionally charged conversation with a loved one.