Leveraging Archetypes to See Systems

In Systems Thinking, we call common systems archetypes.  We can leverage them like job aides to understand the complexity of an problem. Here is a description of archetypes from @leyla_Acaroglu (Medium.com):

Archetypes are recurring patterns of behavior that give insights into the structures that drive systems. They offer a way of deciphering systems dynamics… Think of these archetypes as the storylines of systems in the world. Just as you can identify the same formula for a romcom or a thriller in a Hollywood film, these archetypes help systems thinkers see behaviors and flows in more concrete terms. 

Check this document out for information on the different archetypes.  In this newsletter, we’ll focus on Growth and Underinvestment.

Daniel Kim explains this example of a Growth and Underinvestment archetype:

A company experiences a growth in demand that begins to outstrip the firm’s capacity. When the capacity shortfall persists, the company’s performance (such as on-time delivery) suffers and demand decreases. The fall in demand, however, is then seen as a reason for not making future investments in capacity, rather than a symptom of past underinvestment. This leads to a self-fulfilling cycle of continued underinvestment and falling demand. In the end, the decision to shut down production may seem the only appropriate action.

Without thinking about the whole system, we can jump to a conclusion like the story above – if a new product generates revenue initially but then tanks, is it a bad product?  Or was it something else like service?  How does delay impact assumptions? How can we intervene in the process? Systems Thinking allows us to build a story of cause and effect so that we can intervene if needed. 

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