Focusing on fixing small things, and not looking at the whole system, is a chronic issue among humans. Engineers and designers just happen to be the ones who make decisions that determine the energy used in your house, your transportation, or the materials in your electronics. Our partners at the Rocky Mountain Institute have been talking about whole systems for years. As Amory Lovins put it, “Optimizing components in isolation tends to pessimize the whole system—and hence the bottom line. You can actually make a system less efficient while making each of its parts more efficient, simply by not properly linking up those components. If they’re not designed to work with one another, they’ll tend to work against one another.”
Fellow Worldchanging alumni Dawn Danby and Jer Faludi created this great video (with the help of Free Range Studios) explaining principles of systems thinking as they relate to design and manufacturing — part of Autodesk’s Sustainability Workshop series.