A systems approach is an approach to design and problem solving generally.
All designs are systems that are part of systems.
If designers treat their designs as discrete and disconnected parts, they are likely to contribute to the development of unintended outcomes. In contrast, a systems approach views designs as integral parts of the whole system, and not as disconnected items, processes or events. The benefit of this approach is firstly, synergies can be developed, and secondly, unwanted outcomes can be avoided.
Systems thinking is a way of thinking holistically. It involves a set of practices within a framework based on the knowledge that different parts of a system can best be understood in terms of their relationships with each other. Systems thinking considers feedback cycles and web-like interconnections, rather than discrete and linear cause and effect.
In the past designers tended not to consider what happened to a product once it reached the end of it’s useful life. Systems thinking is crucial for the growth of a circular economy where waste streams are transformed into resource streams. The design thinking will require a new dimension where the retrieval, dismantling and reuse of the product will be designed into the product from the beginning. The product design can evolve based on the feedback from this process.