Tools and Strategies

The tools and strategies below are the foundation of systems thinking. They help us understand the structure and function of a system — and ultimately, identify points of leverage to create change.

Each of these tools and strategies are powerful on their own, and when applied together, users build their capacity to practice the Habits of a Systems Thinker.

Visual Tools

The tools and strategies of systems thinking include the ladder of inference, behavior-over-time graphs, connection circles, stock-flow diagrams, the iceberg visual, and causal loop diagrams. These visual tools are used to collect, analyze, synthesize and communicate insights about systems.

Behavior-over-time graphs

Causal loop diagrams and archetypes

Connection circles

Stock-flow maps and computer models

Ladder of inference

Iceberg visual


Listening & Speaking Strategies

Use of a common vocabulary is a crucial strategy to understanding and communicating about systems. By using the same language, we are better equipped to collaborate and use terms and words that assist in defining problems and finding solutions.
Read about the Habits of a Systems Thinker to learn more about common terms.


Kinesthetic Strategies

The best type of thinking involves the mind and body! Kinesthetic strategies engage the body to work with the mind as a technique to better understand why a system functions the way it does. Plus, it’s a great way to engage users … and have some fun while at it.