System Traps

Some systems are more than surprising. They are perverse. These are the systems that are structured in ways that produce truly problematic behaviour. Continuing my summary of Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows, here are some of the common system traps, and how to avoid/fix them.

Although some of these systems traps can be really insidious, they can be escaped - by recognizing them in advance and not getting caught in them, or by altering the structure - by reformulating goals, by weakening, strengthening, or altering feedback loops, by adding new feedback loops.

Tragedy of the Commons

Drift to low performance

Shifting the Burden to the Intervenor - Addiction

Policy Resistance


Success to the Successful - Competitive Exclusion

Rule Beating

Seeking the Wrong Goal