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Systems and Environment

The distinction between system and environment is the starting point for systems theory. It is an alternative to the idea that things in the world simply exist. Instead, it assumes that everything can only be understood if it is seen in context (=environment). This means that when one talks about a ‘something’, there are always two further ‘somethings’ at play, which one is speaking about at the same time. On the one hand, that which is distinguished from the first ‘something’ is called environment. On the other hand, that which distinguishes the first ‘something’ (=system) from the second ‘something’ (=environment) is called observation.

This, initially rather peculiar and abstract consideration, proves to be enormously helpful for many practical questions. It permits the observation of a phenomenon from different angles, without the question immediately arising as to what is the ‘correct’ observation. Then one can think about one team in terms of other teams, about its task and with respect to its members. One will arrive at different definitions and insights when one examines, for example, why this team is working poorly: Destructive competition with other teams? Too few resources? Or incompetent members? And what dependencies are there between the observations? Therefore, one does not ask, how ‘is’ the team, but rather, how is the team in relation to the respective environment.



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