Observing a system

“Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves… Learn its history… If possible, find or make a time graph of actual data from the system — peoples’ memories are not always reliable when it comes to timing… Starting with the behavior of the system forces you to focus on facts, not theories. It keeps you from falling too quickly into your own beliefs or misconceptions, or those of others…

“It’s especially interesting to watch how the various elements in the system do or do not vary together… Every selectman in the state of New Hampshire seems to be positive that growth in a town will lower taxes, but if you plot growth rates against tax rates, you find a scatter as random as the stars in a New Hampshire winter sky. There is no discernible relationship at all.”

-Donella H. Meadows,
Thinking in Systems (2008, p.170-171)

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