Release year: 2008

Author: Donella H. Meadows

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Link to my handwritten notes


This 185 pages-long book is pure meat. No fat. The work of a lifetime of thinking about systems and how they affect our world. In particular, this really connected with my Physicist brain. Systems thinking gives us the “formulas” that govern “the systems” in which we live. I will think about the concepts taught in this book for years to come. Essential read for any manager!

Félix rating:

⭐ Star quotes

  1. (p. 22) We tend to focus on inflows more easily than outflows. Therefore, we sometimes miss seeing that we can fill a bathtub not only by increasing the inflow rate, but also by decreasing the outflow rate.
  2. (p. 34) If A causes B, is it possible that B also causes A?
  3. (p. 85) Hierarchical systems evolve from the bottom up. The purpose of the upper layers of the hierarchy is to serve the purposes of the lower layers.
  4. (p. 91) Linear systems have an important modular virtue: you can take them apart and put them together again – the pieces add up. Nonlinearity means that the act of playing the game has a way of changing the rules. It creates rich kinds of behaviors that never occur in linear systems.
  5. (p. 108) Taking out one individual from a position of bounded rationality and putting in another person is not likely to make much difference. Blaming the individual rarely helps create a more desirable outcome.
  6. (p. 114) The alternative to overpowering policy resistance is so counterintuitive that it’s usually unthinkable. Let go. Give up ineffective policies. Let the resources and energy spent on both enforcing and resisting be used for more constructive purposes.
  7. (p. 129) Losers, if they are unable to get out of the game of “success to the successful”, could get frustrated enough to destroy the playing field once they realize they have no hope of winning.
  8. (p. 140) Specify indicators and goals that reflect the real welfare of the system. Be especially careful not to confuse effort with result or you will end up with a system that is producing effort, not result.