My comment on the Linked In Systems Thinking World group site (see 12/15/10 post on this site) drew a remarkable response. It essentially described the commenter’s experience that, somehow, people who can envision issues as part of a system, have brains that are “wired” differently. This is, of course, the premise of my Two Human Species theory. Here is a summary of what he said and my reply.
“Systems thinking is something you inherit. It is tied up in the way your brain is wired. If you are naturally inclined to find complex systems attractive, you will further train and develop your capacity. That being aside, people always default to their easiest style of thinking, even when the situation demands a change. How many times has a systems thinker over-analysed a situation. “Get real! Its dead simple! Just get me an answer now!” You have to be able to be self aware of your natural tendencies and try to be objective in assessing any situation…
So over time we find ourselves surrounded by complex systems that need sorting out by us smart guys. We are a genetic minority. Though it is not “us against them”. We have an ecosystem of cognitive styles which provides for diversity that keeps us humans so adaptable. But those who are not so inclined to see systems are more likely to be in positions to define the problems…
CEOs, presidents, and senior executives have played a game of a different sort to get to where they are. These are a different type of person. They plough ahead, undeterred by details and nay-sayers. They are often the ones who define the problems and miss the finer nuances in … efforts to simplify. They surround themselves with people who get short term results that can be easily measured. The times are changing, however. Complexity in civilization is compounding. The linear thinking paradigm is reaching its limits. What we need is to collaborate to put our best systems leaders forward. Do everything you can to support any leader who is capable of articulating a systems solution.”
Randal made a point that I want to follow up on. He said, “Systems thinking is something you inherit. It is tied up in the way your brain is wired.” I think this statement is way more profound than it first appears.
Let me take that observation one step further. In my books, I actually claim that there is not just one species of human on earth today. I claim there are at least two, and maybe more. The key factor that distinguishes the multiple species is a different brain structure. That is, just as modern “Homo Sapiens” is considered a different breed from our Neanderthal predecessors, I believe that homo sapiens also has multiple distinct forms. The factor related to this that I explore in my books is the mental ability to process symbols, and principles that can be expressed by symbols. The books describe how, about 30,000 years ago, a brain mutation occurred, repeating the brain change that jumped Homo Sapiens up one level from Neanderthal. The additional brain function gave humans who had it an ability to envision the complexities of the world as SYSTEMS. That’s what enabled agriculture, cities, coordinated development of tools, armies, accounting, government etc. This is what caused the explosion of great cultures. But the world now stumbles around in the dark because this observation has never been made before.
Randal continues to explain how system thinkers often fail to realize that they are different. He talks about how this shows up in their interactions with those who don’t understand systems. This is what I spend 1000 pages discussing as it applies to the hundreds of problems that have the full potential to unravel modern society and put us back into the dark ages.