The term “polycrisis” refers to a situation where multiple crises or challenges co-occur, creating a complex and interconnected web of problems. The World Economic Forum (WEF) uses this term to describe a state where various global issues converge and interact, amplifying their impact and making them more challenging to address individually.
A polycrisis typically involves a combination of economic, social, political, environmental, and technological challenges. These crises may include economic recessions, political instability, social unrest, climate change, natural disasters, cybersecurity threats, and other systemic risks. The interplay between these crises can exacerbate their effects, leading to more profound and interconnected challenges for societies and economies worldwide.
The concept of a polycrisis highlights the need for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address multiple crises simultaneously. It recognizes that individual crises cannot be isolated from one another, and their solutions must consider their interdependencies. The WEF often discusses the concept of a polycrisis to emphasize the complexity and urgency of the global challenges we face today and the need for collaborative and integrated strategies to address them.
Can systems thinking come to the rescue?
Systems thinking is a problem-solving approach considering the interconnections and interdependencies among various complex system components. When applied to a polycrisis, systems thinking can provide a framework for understanding the underlying causes and dynamics of the crises and help identify holistic and interconnected solutions. Here are some ways systems thinking can address a polycrisis:
Understanding feedback loops: Systems thinking allows for identifying feedback loops within the system. Feedback loops can be reinforcing, where the effects of one crisis exacerbate another, or balancing, where one crisis mitigates the impact of another. By mapping out these feedback loops, decision-makers can anticipate the consequences of interventions and design strategies that address multiple crises simultaneously.
Identifying leverage points: Systems thinking helps identify key leverage points within the system. These are the places where small interventions can significantly impact the entire system. By focusing on these leverage points, decision-makers can address the root causes of multiple crises and trigger positive systemic change.
Promoting collaboration and coordination: A polycrisis requires collaboration and coordination among diverse stakeholders, as the challenges cut across multiple sectors and domains. Systems thinking emphasizes the need for inclusive and participatory approaches, bringing together experts, policymakers, communities, and organizations from different fields to develop solutions that collectively address the complexity of the crises.
Considering unintended consequences: Systems thinking emphasizes the importance of considering the consequences of actions. Interventions to solve one crisis may inadvertently create new problems or exacerbate other crises. By adopting a systems perspective, decision-makers can anticipate and mitigate potential unintended consequences, making more informed and holistic decisions.
Developing resilience: Systems thinking encourages the development of resilient systems that can adapt and respond to changing circumstances. Addressing a polycrisis requires building resilience across multiple dimensions, including economic, social, environmental, and technological systems. This involves identifying and strengthening the system’s connections, redundancies, and capacities to absorb shocks and recover quickly.
Long-term thinking and anticipation: Systems thinking encourages long-term thinking and anticipatory approaches. Instead of focusing solely on short-term fixes, decision-makers can consider the long-term implications of their actions and policies. By anticipating future trends and challenges, they can develop strategies that address the underlying systemic causes of the crises and build a more sustainable and resilient future.
Overall, systems thinking provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing a polycrisis by considering the interconnections and interdependencies among various crises and stakeholders. It enables decision-makers to develop more effective and holistic strategies that simultaneously tackle multiple challenges and lead to long-term systemic change.
How does ROUNDMAP relate to systems thinking?
Similar to systems thinking, ROUNDMAP perceives a business operation as a unique combination of interconnected and interdependent components with which to pursue a specific goal. We endorse the systems thinking and systems design approach.
ROUNDMAP focuses, first and foremost, on customer dynamics and the human system. All other systems are derivatives. Therefore, to cope with a polycrisis in business, we first need to heal our human systems to unleash our total creative capacity. While the human system determines the culture and our resilience to adversity, what we do for our customers ultimately matters most.
Therefore, to tackle a polycrisis, we first need to heal our human systems and only then apply systems thinking practices to think and act ourselves out of harm’s way collectively.