Making positive and holistic changes on a systems level...

Our world is comprised of the interconnections of millions of complex systems in action. Humans produce and experience these systems in countless different ways. Designing and thinking on a system scale means needing to adapt and to see the world through other people’s eyes. This requires a deep awareness of one's biases (and also of the biases of others). Psychologically, cognitively, and emotionally, every human being has a tendency to perceive, interpret, and understand the events and things around her or him based on (and reaffirming of) her or his values and beliefs.

In a linear problem-solution context, the designer, researcher, or entrepreneur translates, defines, and understands (or cognitively creates a problem) based on her or his biases. The solutions she or he comes up with are approached through the same lenses too. This type of linear/one-sided approach is a superficial perspective that fails to understand the main structures and dynamics of the larger system. This means that linear-based solutions developed today will often generate the problems of the future. To make significant positive changes, we instead need to embrace others' thoughts, values, and practices without allowing our own biases to exclude the perspectives of others.

Ignorance of other's perspectives, which may conflict with one's own biases, creates divisions within a community and leads to othering. This othered group will then potentially be against any changes (even positive ones) occurring in the community, and they may even fight against the change. Examples of this type of polarization can be observed in many different types of systems. Consider, for example, the recent presidential election in the USA and its divisive social outcomes. Or, the range of opinions on something like Uber, which has drastically changed transportation practices in certain cities - and simultaneously made the company the enemy of many taxi drivers.

We cannot solve complex problems only with creativity and new linear-based ideas. Rather, we need to focus on creating change on a system scale, and part of this process demands an embrace of diversity.

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