The search for leverage points is an attempt to identify those points within the structure where changes will result in the desired changes to the situation being considered. Donella Meadows has identified 12 categories of leverage points. These will be presented from least to highest potential effect on the structure, and subsequently the situation.
- 12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards). Parameters are points of lowest leverage. Though they are the most clearly perceived among all leverages, they rarely change behaviors and therefore have little long-term effect.
- 11. The size of buffers and other stabilizing stocks relative to their flows. A buffer's ability to stabilize a system is important when the stock amount is much higher than the potential amount of inflows or outflows. In the lake, the water is the buffer: if there's a lot more of it than inflow or outflow, the system stays stable.
- 10. Structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures). A system's structure may have enormous effect on operations, but may be difficult or prohibitively expensive to change. Fluctuations, limitations, and bottlenecks may be easier to address.
- 9. Length of delays relative to the rate of system changes. Information received too quickly or too late can cause over- or under-reaction, even oscillations.
- 8. Strength of negative feedback loops relative to the effect they are trying to correct against. A negative feedback loop slows down a process tending to promote stability. The loop will keep the stock near the goal, thanks to parameters, accuracy and speed of information feedback, and size of correcting flows.
- 7. Gain around driving positive feedback loops. A positive feedback loop speeds up a process. Meadows indicates that in most cases, it is preferable to slow down a positive loop, rather than speed up a negative one.
- 6. Structure of information flow (who does and does not have access to what kinds of information). Information flow is neither a parameter, nor a reinforcing or slowing loop, but a loop that delivers new information. It is cheaper and easier to add new information flows than changing structure.
- 5. Rules of the system (such as incentives, punishment, constraints). Pay attention to rules, and to who makes them.
- 4. Power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure. Self-organization describes a system's ability to change itself by creating new structures, adding new negative and positive feedback loops, promoting new information flows, or making new rules.
- 3. Goal of the system. Changing the goal of the system changes every item listed above: parameters, feedback loops, information and self-organization.
- 2. Mindset or paradigm that the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises out of. A society paradigm is an idea, an unstated assumption that everyone shares, thoughts, or states of thoughts that are sources of systems. Paradigms are very hard to change, but there are no limits to paradigm change. Meadows indicates paradigms might be changed by repeatedly and consistently pointing out anomalies and failures to those with open minds.
- 1. Power to transcend paradigms. Transcending paradigms may go beyond challenging fundamental assumptions, into the realm of changing the values and priorities that lead to the assumptions, and being able to choose among value sets at will.
As you identify leverage points remember that you should never enhance a portion of the system unless it actually improves the overall system operation. At times it might actually be possible to improve the over system operation by making some aspect of the system worse.
- Include this graphic from Henrik Mårtensson in the next version of the video.
- Network Magic/Assumptions < Systemic Strategy > Network Magic/Leverage
- Systems Laws
- Systemic Perspective Dynamic Equilibrium
- Leverage Points by Donella Meadows
- Leverage Points the Wikipedia Short Version
- Theory of Constraintsfrom Wikipedia
- Cybernetics:New Management Tool
- Systems Thinking
- Complex Systems
- Systemic Interventions and Their Leverage with Linda Vanasupa
- Dancing with Systems by Donella Meadows
- Levrage Point from thwink.org
- Systemic Leverage by Jame Ritchie-Dunham
Systems Thinking World Discussions
Systems Thinking World Q&A * Gene Bellinger