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Mod. 4.1 - Mapping Systems & Recognizing Systems-Archetypes

In thinking of your Focal Question (and the related GNH-domain of interest) and/or others "matters of concern", you likely have encountered puzzling or bewildering patterns of events/behaviors that have left you stumped for an explanation. If so, you are dealing with the effects of deep-seated and often invisible (on the surface) systems-dynamics.

Archetypes are recurring patterns of behavior that offer insight into the dynamics of systems (across disciplines or contexts). These archetypes offer systems-thinkers basic storylines ('plot formulas') to make sense of otherwise puzzling or chaotic-seeming behaviors in large, complex systems.

Archetypes can provide clues to the (often implicit, unstated) worldviews or mental models held by powerful actors within the system. Archetypes can also help systems-thinkers shift their own and/or others' perspectives on a problem or issue, from a mental model of blame and judgment to one of openness, acceptance and curiosity.

Learning about systems-archetypes is also an easy way to absorb and practice the basics of mapping systems.

The purpose of this assignment is to —

  • Apply your grasp of systems archetypes to an issue of active interest to see what insights the exercise yields, and

  • To practice drawing systems dynamics as a way to easily and effectively communicate systems-level understandings.

Read Tools for Systems Thinkers: Recurring Systems Archetypes by Leyla Acaroglu, which summarizes 12 main recurring systems archetypes, and the flows and feedback loops that characterize them.

Identify one or more systems-archetypes that are active in a domain or issue of interest to you. This could be related to the GNH domain you identified as particularly interesting in Week-2, and/or a 'matter of concern' to your deepest Self that you would like to translate into a capstone topic or project.

Using simple pen/pencil-&-paper drawings, illustrate the insights you have gained through applying systems archetypes to your area of interest. Upload pictures/scans of your drawings in an editable PowerPoint or KeyNote file, or in a Google Doc.


Tools for Systems Thinkers: The 12 Recurring Systems Archetypes (Negative)

  1. Limits to Growth

  2. Tragedy of the Commons

  3. Escalation

  4. Eroding Goals

  5. Addiction

  6. Seeking the Wrong Goal

  7. Exponential Success

  8. Race to The Bottom

  9. Rule Breaking

  10. Shifting The Burden

  11. Fixes that Fix Back

  12. Growth Paradox

Tools for Systems Thinkers: The 3 Recurring Systems Archetypes (Positive)

  1. Intensity to Action

  2. Regenerative Relationships

  3. Status Quo Disruption

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