Simple systems thinking

I’ve noticed a recurring trait amongst successful people and organisations: the way they develop systems to guide their actions.

The most innovative, thriving companies are those with clearly defined values that are adhered to religiously. They’re prepared to lose a client, staff member, or product, if they fail to make it past the value system.

Day traders use systems, always looking for their ‘edge’, which is essentially the ability to develop a superior system. The system – a set of rules – guides how much you trade, when you trade and when you stop.

Warren Buffet has always used systems to guide his investment decisions, asking a series of questions before making a move.

All these successful systems developers have something else in common: they continually assess the performance of their systems, adapting them, tuning them and replacing them with more effective ways.

Just as the laws of physics give some constraint to a universe of chaos and complexity, enabling evolution, developing your own simple rules that apply to what you’re doing – that guide your moves – is likely to see your performance go through the roof.

One of my systems employs a bunch of behavioural economics principles to guide my communications – whether I’m designing a user interface or e-commerce journey, writing a presentation, or closing a negotiation. Essentially it’s a checklist of ways I can increase the likelihood decisions and actions will go my way.

It’s worth bearing in mind that simple rules = complex behaviour; and complex rules = stupid behaviour. So try to keep your systems as simple as possible.

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