4 simple structures for a complexity or systems thinking book
Your book about complexity or systems thinking is overflowing with ideas. How can you order them clearly? Here are four simple structures to consider.
Build a Wall
First, lay the fundamental principles. Then layer more specific ideas on top – more specific because they’re valid in a particular time, place or under certain constraints. For example, understanding interconnections between parts is fundamental. Mapping informal communication between teams is built on top and references the deeper principle.
Tributaries of a River
The reverse of Build a Wall. Start at the tributaries with specific ideas. As you go, the ideas flow together, getting more general. By the end, you have a wide river – your core principle – merged from the small ideas. This needs care to keep everything clear and a repeated diagram can help orient the reader.
Timeline – History
Order ideas by when they were first invented, described or tried. Then reference each idea to earlier ones. The reader may be familiar with the developments and feel grounded; if not, they will learn some history.
Timeline – Method
If you are describing a method that has a timeline, e.g. steps that follow each other, then ordering your ideas in step with the method can be a good choice. Systems thinking methods are rarely linear, but there’s often a place to start.
And there’s more…
There are other ways to organise your book using stories or case studies, and there’s the Problem, Analysis, Method, Reflection structure. But those are for another day.