Let the meaning choose the word
At a recent Republican Presidential Candidates Debate, the host asked each candidate to describe himself in a single word, and we got consistent, cheerful, to name a few. Back in 2000, Saturday Night Live played off this very idea with fake Al Gore declaring “Lock box” and fake George Bush proclaiming “Strategery.” To be sure, it’s a gimmicky kind of thing, but it can also be a good exercise in synthesis.
In his “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell famously called on writers and thinkers to practice the linguistic discipline of letting “the meaning choose the word.” We do not need to think very broadly to cite examples of sloppy or exaggerated thinking where words seem to mean anything the writer or speaker wants. I also recall Jay Forrester once proclaiming that a hallmark of system dynamics was that it made one’s thinking plain.
It’s what caused me to ask recently what are the ten most important systems words a middle or high school student should know. So, over the last few weeks, I’ve read dozens of words people ascribe to Systems Thinking; and, while I disagree or am confounded by some of those words, I’ll leave it to others to check either the K-12 List Serve or Systems Thinking World to make their own judgments.
- balancing feedback loop
- bounded rationality
- dynamic equilibrium
- feedback loop
- limiting factor
- linear relationship
- nonlinear relationship
- reinforcing feedback loop
- shifting dominance
Eighteen words and phrases. Learn them. Teach them. And, in a few generations, we’ll all live a different world.
- Orwell’s Six Rules of Clear English (aplusedits.com)
- OneThing35: National Systems Thinking Weeks, 10/5 – 10/20 (itsallonething.com)
- OneThing36: knowing “throughput” fundamentally changes how you see (itsallonething.com)