an expressive piece regarding systems theory, targeted towards designers
Nikki & Ross 17/8/13
Systems are not static, rather they have changing characteristics that are adaptive and often fast paced. The evolutionary and dynamic nature of systems is due to the fact that systems are comprised of many different elements or components that are interconnected and interdependent . A system can only function if all of the necessary components are working effectively. If a component is missing the system may fail as each part is integral to the function or eventual outcomes that the system provides. Each component is simultaneously contributing to an overall outcome, or wholeness that is more than the sum of its parts (Meadows, 2008) . A system differs from a heap as it performs a set task. The objective may be minimal but all components are necessary to complete the system. Stock flows through the system and has an eventual output . The varying stock levels can be attributed to the controlling and manipulation of feedback loops. Within the system there are two different types of feedback loops either reinforcing or stabilising. The reinforcing feedback loop occurs when the existing stock within a system is compounded as it “enhance(s) whatever direction of change imposed on it” which generally results in “growth or runaway destruction (Meadows, 2008, pg 31) . In the context of the coffee system a reinforcing loop can be found. Social media can activate a broad range of potential customers within the broader market place, and stimulate the coffee revenue inside the shop. A reinforcing feedback loop may not always be so desirable. In some instances it evolves into a vicious cycle where seemingly small initial problems become exacerbated. Stabilising or balancing loops occur when the existing stock is maintained within boundaries. In the context of systems the stabilising loop provides a kind of 'safety valve' mechanism. The stabilising loop occurs to prevent continuous growth or uncontrollable effects. Stabilising loops disable or retard the functions of reinforcing loops often to achieve a or maintain a desired state. Sweeney contends that this is to “ensure that a system fulfils its purpose”(Sweeney , 2001) The alarm maintains desired wake up time, and ensures against over sleeping.
Reductionism vs. Systems Thinking. A commonly used expression "greater than the sum of it's parts" highlights when components inside a system are isolated, they become redundant in their function.
Coffee systems & Subsystems within. Each process inside the coffee system is of lequal importance, from the machine to the beans, these indivudual contributions to the system can be constrained as subsystems. Each subsystem can then be viewed to refine or modify the system outcome. For instance if we were to change the milk input from regular to skinny milk, the flavour and viscosity would be affected.
System Boundaries. When looking at a system it is necessary to have an understanding of the scope in which the system operates. The cafe system demonstrates this concept of scope; as the ability to conduct change is dicated by the limitations of the environment .
Tipping Point . The point at which small changes compound, triggering an irreversible reaction, and thus outcome.