Systems Theory

René Doff

In business, as in private life, people generally make decisions regarding complex situations in which the relation between a decision, the action and its outcome are part of a complicated system. Moreover, the relations between the parts and the outcome are unstable and uncertain. The natural instinct of many people when such a difficult situation occurs is to decompose the situation into separate parts, focus on the important parts first and analyse the parts one by one. Such reductionism is the basis of many natural sciences, including physics, medicine and biology. While this can be effective in some cases, in others the relations between the parts are essential to the problem, and therefore decomposing or reducing avoids seeing the real problem at hand.

This is most clearly illustrated in the ancient parable of a group of blind men and the elephant. According to the parable, six blind men who had never seen an elephant before come across one. They all touch one part and describe what they feel. The man who touched the trunk described the elephant as a long thick snake. The man who touched the tusk described it as a long, curved spear. The man who touched the side described

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