June 2004: "Places to Intervene in a System

Author: Donella H. Meadows 

This article is about "leverage points" - the "...places within a complex systems ... where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything." Discovering leverage points can be challenging. Donella contends that applying leverage points correctly can often be counterintuitive.

Donella describe nine types of leverage points that can be used to drive system changes, in increasing importance:
9. Numbers, or the parameters of systems (i.e. length of delay in a feedback loop). Rarely change behaviors, unless they approach ranges that affect other factors.
8. Material stocks and flows (i.e. buffers). Usually physical entities that are not easily changed.
7. Regulating negative feedback loops (i.e. control mechanisms, such as marketing pricing). Critical that negative feedback strength matches the forces it is correcting.
6. Driving positive feedback loops. Without negative feed back, can lead to chaos. Reducing 'gain' of positive feedback loops can allow corrective measures to be effective.
5. Information flows (i.e. creation of new feedback loops). Information needs to be compelling and applied in the right place.
4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints). Defining the scope, boundaries and degrees of freedom of the system. Critical to understand who has power over the rules.
3. The power of self-organization, creating new structures and behaviors.
2. The goals of the system.
1. The mindset or paradigm of the system, from which derive the goals, information flows, feedbacks, stocks and flows.
0. The power to transcend paradigms, recognizing that no paradigms are the "truth" .

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