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Unknowns

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This video of an hour-long workshop introduces the core concepts and patterns of thought of the system dynamics approach to complex problems: thinking dynamically, thinking causally, thinking about accumulations, and the key to it all, thinking endogenously. The session builds skills in the mechanics of defining problems dynamically, mapping systems structure, and teasing out qualitative […]
Purpose: To demonstrate how a qualitative system dynamics map is constructed, along with its value in identifying leverage points, as well as to develop principles for qualitative mapping. Description: This 28 minute video by George Richardson describes his perspective on how a systems thinker and modeler approaches the problem of extensive evil. He builds a […]
Purpose: To provide a comprehensive overview of the systems and cybernetics fields, by defining concepts and bringing together key, but currently scattered, references about them. Description: The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics is both a hard copy book (the second edition was published by De Gruyter Saur in 2004) and a searchable online database. […]
Purpose: To provide an understanding of key systems principles. Description: This five-minute video uses ‘love’ as a universal example to illustrate what it means to think in systems (rather than parts) to better understand complexity. An example is provided of each of the following: Stocks Inflows Outflows Reinforcing feedback loops Balancing feedback loops Nonlinearity Delays […]
Purpose: To describe some basic elements of systems thinking and how they affect approaches to complex societal and environmental problems. Description: The report and accompanying video each provide a useful description of systems and show what is required to move to a more systemic approach to a problem when technical solutions focusing on individual parts […]
The problem of dealing with unknowns does not reside in any one discipline. Instead, it inhabits many disciplines. Nearly all disciplines and practice domains have perspectives on the unknown, and their perspectives employ methods ranging from mathematics to discourse analysis. These perspectives are, however, fragmented and specific to their discipline’s linguistic-conceptual frameworks. Thus, researchers and […]
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Purpose: To distinguish different kinds of unknowns. Description: It is useful to characterise different kinds of unknowns and to show their relationships in a taxonomy. A taxonomy of unknowns is shown in the figure below. The catch-all term used in this taxonomy to encompass all kinds of unknowns is “ignorance” and the first distinction is […]
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Purpose: To distinguish among three primary categories of unknowns. Description: One useful way of thinking about different kinds of unknowns is illustrated in the matrix below, which highlights three kinds of unknowns: known unknowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknowns. The most familiar is what we know we do not know ie ‘known unknowns’ or conscious […]
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Purpose: To identify personal values that are robust across cultures and that can help explain diversity and conflict in values. Description: Six main features, relevant to all values, are described first. This is followed by an outline of ten basic personal values, with a guide to which are congruent and which conflict. Six main features […]

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