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Publisher's Summary

In the years following her role as the lead author of the international best seller, Limits to Growth - the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet - Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001. 

Thinking in Systems is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem-solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute's Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing listeners how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life. 

Some of the biggest problems facing the world - war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation - are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking. 

While listeners will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds listeners to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner. 

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps listeners avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2008 Sustainability Institute (P)2018 Chelsea Green Publishing

What listeners say about Thinking in Systems

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alright alright alright

very interesting book. served as a great introduction into system theory. the theories appear to offer a broad range of explanatory power in almost any field. however that broad applicability may be viewed as detracting from the potential validity of the theory itself. regardless it's a very interesting listen and if your looking for something to get you thinking outside the box, this book has a good chance of doing just that.

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Why did I only find this now!?

Ohhh, if only I, and so many others, had read this book when It was written -- perhaps we would all be in a better place now. What an incredible thinker. She could see it all so well, and tried tried to explain it all so succinctly.

2 people found this helpful

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Brings clarity of concepts to various contexts

I loved it. This book is indeed a good primer to systems thinking. It applies the concepts to a wide variety of contexts, levels and timescales. It's also inspiring.

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Amazing

This is definitely a book to go back to again and again. Well written to make systems thinking easily comprehensible.

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  • Zac
  • 2020-10-24

Good book with Deleuzian undertones

Personally, I recommend skipping the last chapter to instead read Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism right away. Try thinking of Capital as a runaway system, and take a look at Deleuze, Land, Bostrom, and Fisher.

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Milestone book

Great material for boosting your understanding of System Thinking
Nicely, clearly narrated and entertaining ; addictive

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Theoretical overview of Systems.

Plain, Theoretical overview of Systems. No practical application in my case. Narrator is doing her job very well, easy to listen.

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Visual text helps you learn

Using evocative writing, Meadows allows you to visualize the complex subject and learn. Though pegged with particular ideology, she is more nuanced than her detractors let on. Many would be surprised and learn from this book. I wish there was a part two.

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lacking substance

Talked about systems but not how systems actually work. Seemed to be able to say things wrong with the world but offer no insight on how to fix them.

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New Thinking

Old methods which are capable of causing greater change even in the new age.
Practical methods which help with Understanding any system.
This book is an inspiration for me.

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  • Andrew C
  • 2019-05-12

Left me craving for more systems literature

I've been thinking about feedback loops for years but never realized there was a field of study that covered the topic.

Given the immense impact of feedback loops in all facets of (my) life, its certainly something worth studying more in depth. While the book goes much further, learning the definition of a feedback loop was even valuable: in a system that involves a stock, >= 1 inflow, and >= 1 outflow, a feedback loop occurs when there is a relationship between the level of a stock and the level of a flow. This is in essence another way to describe exponential growth.

This book discusses different system archetypes, of which on the highest level are reinforcing feedback loops (where more stock results in more inflow or less outflow), and balancing feedback loops (where more stock results in less inflow or more outflow). Without intervening to slow their growth, or through the counter via balancing feedback loops, reinforcing feedback loops will destroy themselves. Slowing growth in reinforcing loops is a leverage point can be fruitful for enhancing the sustainability of almost any system - the ecosystem, the economy, our bodies - and is more effective than the addition of balancing feedback loops. Other key leverage points, or viable intervention points in systems are setting up system rules/laws/incentives, reducing information asymmetry ("Thou shalt not distort, delay, or sequester information"), defining a system's purpose, and understanding the paradigms that led to a purpose. Instead, many people in charge of system decisions spend their time on low-level parameter tweaking such as how much political is energy spent on increasing the minimum wage; not only are these changes unlikely to have a significant impact on system performance, given the counter-intuitiveness of systems people often push these levers in the wrong direction.

Donella applies systems thinking to a host of systems common in daily life; I will now think if these in a much different, fuller way going forward. I'm excited to continue my study of this lens on the world.

10 people found this helpful

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  • John Chambers
  • 2020-06-20

Skip to the Middle

The first and last chapters of this book are useless, but the middle is wonderful. The intro tries to hook you with a "you guys think differently" monologue that comes across like an evangelist seeking a convert; and the conclusion mixes a bunch of unsubstantiated and unconnected ethical theses in with a few plausible applications of systems thinking to life in general. If you want to learn the subject, this book will certainly help you. The middle is serious writing and presents the topic in an approachable fashion; but do yourself a favor and listen ONLY to the middle.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Greg W.
  • 2019-08-05

Changed the way I approach my work

I came to this book with no systems thinking background. It helped me get a foundation for the elements and influence on systems, and provided a framework for approaching problems by looking for stocks, inflows and outflows of system at hand. It has already influenced how I craft goals, consider stakeholders, and make strategic choices. I’m not a systems thinker because of this book. However, I’m a slightly better leader because of its lessons.

It can be a little difficult for a novice to listen to the first several chapters. Those chapters cover key concepts that would benefit from pictorial representations of the systems concepts. I’m listening to the book a second time, and I’m picking up a lot more this time.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Sigurdur Josef Arnason
  • 2018-12-01

Excellent and enjoyable intro to System Dynamics

I love this book and listening to this audio version is a delightful experience. Tia Rider Sorensen narrates this perfectly.

Donella Meadows was truly an inspiring systems thinker. Her marvellous insights are so well and clearly communicated throughout this book that it will keep interested both the System Dynamics practitioner and the Layman alike.

This is a book that I wished all policymakers in the world would read/listen to.

7 people found this helpful

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  • John Z
  • 2019-02-17

Makes you analyze everything from a different perspective

Very thought provoking read, provides real world and hypothetical examples of how you can look at something from a whole new perspective than how you already do. Concepts can be applied to any domain.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-08-09

Perfect intro into system thinking

really enjoyed the reader and the content. I would recommend to anyone looking to have a better understanding of why our ecosystem or world, in general, are all interconnected.

10 people found this helpful

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  • The Martin's
  • 2019-02-03

Excellent!!!

Very good explanation of what I thought I already knew. I was wrong. Enjoyed and engaged every minute of it.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Dan Gottesman
  • 2018-12-14

systems allow us to better understand the world

Very interesting. And it became more captivating with each chapter. I'll recommend it to others.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Kitty
  • 2018-11-11

Must Read for Management

This was a required reading book for one of my MBA classes. The narration is a bit dry and it drones on a little bit, but the material is so comprehensive and useful that it's worth pushing through. Awesome book to help you see the bigger picture and how to avoid common circular traps!
#SelfDevelopment #Systems #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

4 people found this helpful

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  • Rakkhi
  • 2019-05-05

Really not a book

As the preamble states this was some notes that was published as a book after the authors death. Really presents two basic ideas of a reinforcing feedback and a balancing feedback and then some very high level ideas and examples she admits were from one week of a newspaper. Would not recommend

9 people found this helpful

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  • Carlos A Bonadona V
  • 2021-04-18

Master piece

Great contributions to understanding the complexity of our social and economic world and ourselves!

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  • Ralfe
  • 2019-06-19

Universally applicable

A beautifully written introduction to Dynamic systems theory. I think the world would be a bit better if everyone knew about the contents of this book!