Dancing with Systems

The Dance

1. Get the beat.
2. Listen to the wisdom of the system.
3. Expose your mental models to the open air.
4. Stay humble, stay a learner.
5. Honor and protect information.
6. Locate responsibility in the system.
7. Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
8. Pay attention to what is important, not just to what is quantifiable.
9. Go for the good of the whole.
10. Expand time horizons.
11 .Expand thought horizons.
12. Celebrate complexity.
13. Hold fast to the goal of goodness.

…Let’s face it, the universe is messy. It is nonlinear, turbulent, and chaotic. It is dynamic. It spends its time in transient behavior on its way to somewhere else, not in mathematically neat equilibria. It self-organizes and evolves. It creates diversity, not uniformity. That’s what makes the world interesting, that’s what makes it beautiful, and that’s what makes it work.

Donella Meadows

Versions of this piece have been published in Whole Earth, winter 2001 and The Systems Thinker, Vol. 13, No. 2 (March 2002).

See also: Leverage Points by Donella Meadows