Systems Thinking Sheffield 2: Why Won't My Car Start?

These are the slides for the presentation and interactive session at Systems Thinking Sheffield 2, held in February 2011 at the GIST Lab.

Note that the slides were prepared quite quickly, which means some of the examples are not as tight as they could be. Also, the output of the "story of the hosed monkeys" interactive tree-drawing session isn't included. I need to write a separate post about that one, as it raises interesting points both about behaviour in organisations and how to model it. (If you'd like to know more about this, please request it in the comments.)

This is the first time I've tried to present these ideas in this format, so I learned a lot. A few key points:

  • Many people's instinctive reaction to figuring out why a situation plays out the way it does is by gathering facts, rather than by asking "why do we see this?", and challenging assumptions. That, I suspect, is becase we think primarily by pattern matching, rather than analysis.
  • It's easier to introduce logic trees by presenting a partially-complete one (and they're all partially complete) and having people raise informal objections, than to teach by building one from scratch.
  • People value the emphasis on externalising and de-personalising problems, and questioning, rather than directly criticising, logic. I included a reference to the Agile Retrospective Prime Directive, which went down well even with a largely non-software audience.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment. I want to refine my presentation of logic trees over time. Many people are put off them at first, but everyone who has humoured me long enough to draw one said afterwards that they found the activity valuable.