How Systems Thinkers Think About Structure


In Physiology textbooks, you’ll learn that the way parts are connected together to form a whole is called “Structure”. However, the word “function” is not explicitly mentioned. That’s because a structure’s function depends on its characteristics, including whether it is a one-way connection or a two-way connection. Whether your structure is one-way or two-way depends on the characteristics of the structures that do the work.

Structure is the way parts are connected to form a whole

Systems thinkers focus on structure as a core concept, because every system is made up of parts, but the connection between these parts determines how the system functions and behaves as a whole. This makes structure the most fundamental insight in systems thinking. Here are some ways to see structure in action:

A system is made up of parts and is organized into a structure that defines its properties. These properties are the basic elements of an organization. Structures can be natural or man-made. Structures can also be abstract, such as data structures in computer science or musical form. Some common examples of structures include a hierarchy, a network, a lattice, or a biological structure.

Connections are one-way or two-way

A network diagram template visualizes the connections between data points, which are represented by nodes. The nodes are called nodes and links are called links. A network diagram template can be either undirected or directed, with the former showing connections between entities only. The latter, on the other hand, shows two-way connections. In the default network graph, users can switch between different sheets and view the different networks.
Physiology textbooks do not explicitly refer to “structure/function”

Structure/function relationship is an important concept in physiology but not emphasized in many textbooks. While the term “structure” refers to the components that make up an organism, “function” refers to how the organism functions. Physiology textbooks typically do not refer to “structure/function” explicitly, but the authors use it to discuss how the two concepts are related.