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Auteur: Michel van Keeken

Think like A Great Mind – Systems Thinking

Think like A Great Mind – Systems Thinking

“For every complex problem there is a solution that is concise, clear, simple, and wrong.” – H.L. Mencken

Usually I am not that engaged in politics and the world problems. Of course, as any healthy world citizen should, I care about the issues. But I don’t let it rule my day, year, or life. The reason I write this article is not because of a single event or thing. What I find annoying is the fact that it seems as if people are drawing away from reason and fact.

In a world that is drawing to extremes; think Trump, Brexit, IS, immigration issues, we must not forget to think. Sound easy right; to THINK. Extreme events strike at the heart of extreme emotions, and these attract proponents of extreme solutions. The fact that Trump got elected rose for a large part from the unsatisfied, scared feelings from almost half of voting Americans. Trump played this card pretty well, and managed to secure the victory. Here in Europe we have seen the same kind of thinking when (mostly elderly people of) Britain voted for an exit out of the European Union.

Furthermore the problems in the Middle East with IS and the subsequent immigration issues throughout Europe, have struck people at the center of their emotion. Proponents of hard, strict and simple to understand solutions are getting even more popular, and the voice of reason falls to the background.

What is even worse than proposing simple solutions to messy problems, is advocating misleading numbers and not looking at the facts. It’s no use in stopping people from wanting to be popular and thus using popular emotions to win hearts and votes. We need to stop believing these people without reasoning first. We need to start thinking as scientists, and great minds. One way is to start seeing problems as they really are. They are not clear cut, but messy and complex. Thankfully we have a thing called Systems Thinking.

I dare not propose this to be a complete introduction to the practical side of Systems Thinking. But I had a real eye opening when it was introduced to me while at University. Systems Thinking is a way of addressing decision making issues. Using a holistic analysis focusing on the way that a system’s essential parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. It recognizes that each piece is affected by each of the other pieces and tries to work out how. Feedback loops or causal loops are used to build an overview to aid decision making.

So a simple set of feedback loops would look like this:


These address the concept of motivation. Left is a positive feedback loop that reinforces itself. Right is a negative feedback loop that also reinforces itself.

If you take reinforcing (+,+ or -,-) causal loops and put them together, you could see an escalation of great proportions. For example, the loop in the following left picture.


People panic and start running, causing more people to panic and run. That’s when you call it a reinforcing loop. When you introduce an negative to a positive or vice versa, you get a balancing loop. Depending on the measure of force in each causal reaction you will get a balance sooner or later. An equilibrium will maintain.

Using these loops you can build up bigger and complex systems. Like this one for urbanization issues.


Or check out this one, about the dynamics in the stability in Afghanistan.


My point in this article is that most problems in the world are connected to other issues. The larger and more complex a problems is, the larger your system will be. Changing or influencing one feedback loop could distort the entire system. This could result in events that, when we don’t have an all knowing overview, we don’t even know what could happen. This is what is happening to the ecology around us all the time. We are still learning the impact of global warming, deforestation, melting polar ice, waste and other human factors on the well-being of the planet, and all inhabitants of it. But as we uncover more and more, we can see and predict more and more of its effects. Not knowing about it, results in people not acknowledging it (Trump) or coming up with simple solutions.

We need to see that messy problems are messy for a reason. Try to think about the bigger picture, and more important think for yourself (Read why you should here). Let reason be the way to guide your decisions, not emotion. Use facts and proven feedback loops to see the total system (as large as you can imagine, since the total system is endless). Learn and study history (That’s why you should read).

Be a great mind, and think in holistic systems.


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Knowledge and Growth – Why I read Books

Knowledge and Growth – Why I read Books

“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.”

-Paul Sweeney-

As you might have read, Danny and I started this blog to inspire and be inspired on our way to understanding magnanimity. Personally for me it can be an outlet for my thoughts on several subjects that run around in my head. Subjects that are not necessarily placed in the marketing or business category. They do have everything to do with the concepts of knowledge, growth and for a large part magnanimity. In this blog I want to look into an activity that sparked my search for knowledge and growth; reading books.

When you are young, if you are lucky, you learn to read text. You learn in school, you learn through your parents, and later on you learn because society forces you to read. You don’t want to be the kid that can’t read the “No Swimming, Beware of Sharks” sign. You learn because you must. That’s exactly the way I learned it. I had to.

Later, in my teenage years I discovered comic books. Tintin (or as it was named in Dutch ‘Kuifje’) being my favorite. It took me away on exciting adventures across time and space. Although the illustrations were the main thing, you were forced to read the balloons. And I loved it. I read faster and reading became easier. Halfway through high school I discovered that you could also read informative books about topics you were interested in.

I remember this one book about football. It was written for kids, and had lots of pictures. I love sports, and from a young age I was involved in lots of physical activity. Reading books, and learning tips and tricks about sports was unbelievable. A book about football! I loved to test my skills on the pitch, playing around with friends. I learned in training and from coaches. But reading books added a whole new layer on the learning experience. The layer of theoretical awareness of an expert.

When I went to University to study business, I read almost all the texts that were mandatory. Not because it was necessary per se. It was possible to pass with reading only the main texts. Some friends passed several courses by reading just by attending the lectures. I read all the texts, because I wanted to know as much as possible. Filling my brain with more information, didn’t hurt. And finishing a book or text gave a great feeling of satisfaction.


After my studies I continued this trend, and diverted my reading towards a broader category. About personal growth, development, psychology, sociology, history and biology. I could find interesting books in any topic. I was addicted.

Fast forward to today…. Currently there are some hundred plus books in my home. I try to read a minimum of 30 minutes every single day. In the weekends and holidays this can be much more. Taking in new knowledge, different perspectives, rare insights and inspirational content gets me out of bed. I can’t prove it all, but I have learned a lot of things through books. Reading informative books is a thing I would still do every day, no matter what age or life phase.

I truly believe that reading informative books has made me into a more balanced, honest, empathic, hard working and focused human being. When you learn the perspective of somebody that is knowledgeable in a certain field, you have not his knowledge. But you know his perspective, and that makes you open to learn his knowledge. Reading books has taught me about growth mindset. I can be anything I want. I can learn anything I wish. Books are as accessible as ever and thus knowledge and growth are as accessible as ever.

Why you should read too

Ok, watching some clips on YouTube can definitively develop your knowledge. It sure costs less energy to absorb the information. But reading a book, contains so much more depth, and because you read it, you store the information much better. Furthermore, when an author writes a book, he or she might have years of experience to back it up. Years of research has preceded the first draft, and editors check the content over and over.

A well-written book is timeless. It is a manuscript of the author’s soul. Whether fiction or non-fiction, it can inspire, inform, educate and influence your behavior. A book has the power to change one’s life. And changing different lives at the same time, thereby influencing and even changing the whole world. A well-written book gives you joy in reading. Brings you to a new level of thinking, feeds you with knowledge that helps you grow, and brings you closer to your goals.

Being magnanimous is to build on the great minds of the past. What better way to do this than to read their manuscripts, learn about their struggles, and reap the benefits of their research. Don’t be afraid to be called an intellectual or nerd. Read a book, and build your mind. Become greater than you were yesterday, and share it with others. Don’t be trapped in a dogma, learn something new. Grow your mind, grow your knowledge, by growing your library.


Do you have any favorite reads or recommendations? Let us know by commenting or sending us a message!
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