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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Top 15 Systems Thinking Books

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I know. I have not been very kind to systems thinking in my recent “Complexity vs. Lean” presentation. But most systems thinkers are nice and smart people, and so I will try and make up with this Top 15 of Systems Thinking Books.

I created this list by finding suggestions on Systems Thinking groups (here, here and here), and some intensive searches on Amazon. The results are ranked by a combination of rating and popularity, both on Amazon and GoodReads. (For example, Peter M. Senge’s book is the most popular, but Donella Meadows book has better ratings both on Amazon and on GoodReads, which is why her book won the top slot.)

Oh, and in case you’re wondering. I only read three of the books in this list. But I just added three more to my shopping cart. :-)


1 Donella Meadows Thinking in Systems: A Primer  
2 Peter M. Senge The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization  
3 Gerald M. Weinberg An Introduction to General Systems Thinking  
4 Michael C. Jackson Systems Thinking: Creative Holism for Managers  
5 Russell L. Ackoff Re-Creating the Corporation: A Design of Organizations for the 21st Century  
6 Ervin Laszlo The Systems View of the World: A Holistic Vision for Our Time  
7 Linda B. Sweeney,
Dennis Meadows
The Systems Thinking Playbook: Exercises to Stretch and Build Learning and Systems Thinking Capabilities  
8 Jamshid Gharajedaghi Systems Thinking, Second Edition: Managing Chaos and Complexity: A Platform for Designing Business Architecture  
9 Dennis Sherwood Seeing the Forest for the Trees: A Manager's Guide to Applying Systems Thinking  
10 John D. Sterman Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World  
11 Russell L. Ackoff,
Herbert J. Addison
Systems Thinking for Curious Managers: With 40 New Management f-Laws  
12 Peter Checkland Systems Thinking, Systems Practice: Includes a 30-Year Retrospective  
13 Stephen G. Haines The Manager's Pocket Guide to Systems Thinking and Learning  
14 Joy Richmond,
Lees Stuntz,
Kathy Richmond,
Joanne Egner
Tracing Connections: Voices of Systems Thinkers  
15 John Boardman,
Brian Sauser
Systems Thinking: Coping with 21st Century Problems  
And I'm tossing in two extra books that aren't really about Systems Thinking, but they seem to be mentioned regularly among systems thinkers...
- John Gall The Systems Bible: The Beginner's Guide to Systems Large and Small  
- Lars Skyttner General Systems Theory  

Jurgen is an experienced authortrainer, and speaker. Why don’t you hire him to add some spice to your company event or seminar?

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Neil Watson replied on Tue, 2011/03/15 - 9:33am

Hi Jurgen

You seem to have missed Eliyahu Goldratt off your list? The Goal is more related to production, but Critical Chain is very applicable to systems development.

Shumona Kapil replied on Sun, 2012/02/19 - 9:46am

Interesting list. Agree with some of it, but would be surprised to agree with all of such a list. I think that there are wide variations of 'systems thinking' 'lean' and all of them have huge advantages over analytical reductionist command and control, and perhaps we get too hung up on the differences.

Kookee Gacho replied on Mon, 2012/06/11 - 10:35pm

Born in Elgin, Illinois, Meadows was educated in science, receiving a B.A. in chemistry from Carleton College in 1963, and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard in 1968. After a year-long trip with her husband, Dennis Meadows, from England to Sri Lanka and back, she became, along with him, a research fellow at MIT as a member of a team in the department created by Jay Forrester. - Arthur van der Vant

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