Systems Thinking versus Linear Thinking
December 21, 2009 by senterraThe Lotus Leaf is a stunning example of adaptation and served as the inspiration for a new surface coating that allows buildings to self-clean.
In a previous post, we had alluded to the environmentally sustainable ideal of systems thinking versus the reality of linear thinking, particularly in manufacturing processes, and promised to provide examples of each to better explain these concepts.
Systems thinking has multiple applications, from problem-solving to enterprise philosophy, but it is most evidently contained within our existing ecosystem. The concept is simply based on the holistic view that the components of a system are best understood in context to each other and their environment. Although our ecosystem was readily available for copying at the start of the industrial revolution, we chose to go with linear thinking instead, where one step follows another in a cradle-to-grave approach, if you will. Today, 150 years later, we have realized that this is not an indefinitely sustainable production strategy and are consequently evaluating concepts like cradle-to-cradle and biomimicry.
There are millions of products designed by linear thinking. Any single item that faces an end-of-life stage at which it has no further use falls into this category. Look around your home or office and you will see them, from sofas and rugs to computers and televisions, even the materials that comprise the building itself, to name just a few. Do you have a gadget on your desk that consists of several materials fused together, maybe a picture frame or business card holder? Most lamps consist of multiple materials, too, as do most shoes. All these items are bound to end up in landfills one day, because they cannot be broken down into useful materials…………………….