Now that we have a better understanding as to the differences between linear and systems thinking, it is time to dive in and analyze systems’ behavior in order to see how they work. We know that systems are composed of elements, interconnections, and a purpose or function, but there is more to learn if we want to become adept at systems thinking. Before we learn about additional parts of systems, let’s recap some of the key concepts in systems thinking that we have covered so far.
A stock serves as the base of every system. Stock may be physical, like an amount of money, inventory, or information, but it does not have to be. Stock can also be feelings or attitudes that people hold. Stocks are not static. They change over time based on the impacts of a flow. Stocks are sorts of snapshots in time, showing a current view of the changing flows in the system.
Oranges in a citrus grove are a stock. The inflows are the growth of the citrus trees and the amount of oranges that can successfully survive until they are ripe enough to be harvested. The outflows are the oranges that fall from the trees or rot before they can be picked, the oranges that may not reach maturity because of the impact of freezing temperatures, the oranges that are lost due to insects ordisease harming the trees, and the inventory of oranges that are sold to consumers as fruit or juice.
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