Open Thinkering


TB871: Different uses of the words ‘Strategy’ and ‘System’

Note: this is a post reflecting on one of the modules of my MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice. You can see all of the related posts in this category

Activity 1.1 is to complete the following:

Make some brief notes, and perhaps drawings, in your journal on what the words ‘strategy’ and ‘systems’ mean to you. Do this as a brief brainstorming exercise, noting down any word associations or images that come to mind in relation to each term.

After jotting down a few ideas, I used GPT-4 as a thought partner along with Whimsical to separate this out into two mindmaps with themes, sub-themes, and examples.


Different examples of the use of 'strategy' broken down by theme (e.g. business, military, games) and then by sub-theme, with examples


Different examples of the use of 'system' broken down by theme (e.g. computing, biology, society) and then by sub-theme, with examples

Example from course authors

Once I’d done this, I then pressed ‘reveal discussion’ in the module pages and saw what the course authors had created as an example:

Spray diagram showing thoughts around definitions of 'strategy' and 'systems'

It turns out I approached this from a ‘noun’ rather than ‘verb’ perspective. If I was going to do this again, I’d definitely add a temporal dimension.

The course authors go on to mention that there are two prevalent views of systems in modern industrial societies. One sees systems as real-world entities with a degree of autonomy or as forces opposing human efforts, like the ‘health system’ or ‘legal system’. This perspective treats systems as independent and engineerable (i.e. reified). The other view is to see systems not as physical entities but as conceptual tools to help us understand and manage various situations. With systems thinking we are, of course, interested in the latter view.

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