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Systemic vs. Systematic: Unveiling Complexity

Are you tired of getting tangled up in the confusing web of similar-sounding terms? Well, we hear you! Today, we’re here to demystify two commonly misunderstood words: systemic and systematic. 

“Systemic” pertains to issues affecting an entire system, while “systematic” relates to an organized, methodical approach. Systemic deals with widespread impacts, while systematic involves structured processes.

Systemic vs. Systematic

Systemic thinking involves analyzing the interconnections, relationships, and interactions within a system to comprehend its complexity.Systematic approaches emphasize following structured and sequential processes, ensuring tasks are completed in a methodical order.
It is employed to delve into complex issues, uncover underlying causes, and develop holistic solutions that consider the entire system’s dynamics.These methods are applied to streamline workflows, maintain consistency, and ensure efficient task execution, often focusing on optimizing individual steps.
Systemic thinking finds its application in disciplines like sociology, ecology, economics, and systems thinking, where understanding patterns and interdependencies is crucial.Systematic approaches are utilized across various domains for project management, quality control, and procedural tasks, ensuring consistent and reliable outcomes.
It stresses the importance of understanding the broader context and the intricate relationships between elements within a system.It prioritizes the adherence to predefined steps and the logical order of executing tasks.
Systemic thinking addresses the root causes of issues, leading to more sustainable and lasting solutions by considering the systemic interactions at play.Systematic approaches offer structured methodologies for problem-solving, often involving a series of predetermined steps to reach desired outcomes.
It demonstrates adaptability to dynamic and changing scenarios, accommodating the complex nature of interactions within a system.It may lack flexibility in rapidly changing or unpredictable situations due to their rigid step-by-step nature.
Systemic thinking adopts a holistic viewpoint, understanding that individual components are interconnected and influence each other within a system.Systematic approaches focus on the specifics of individual steps and components within a process, often without considering their broader influences.

What is systemic?

“Systemic” refers to something that is related to, inherent in, or affecting an entire system rather than just isolated parts or components. It is often used to describe issues, patterns, or characteristics that are deeply ingrained within a system and have widespread, interconnected impacts. 

Systemic problems or changes are those that address the underlying structures and mechanisms of a system, aiming to create comprehensive and lasting transformations. This term is commonly used in various fields such as economics, sociology, biology, and more, to highlight the interconnected nature of systems and the need to consider the bigger picture when analyzing or addressing complex issues.

What is Systematic?

“Systematic” refers to something that is methodical, organized, and following a structured or predetermined plan or process. It involves carrying out tasks, actions, or investigations in a systematic manner, where each step is carefully planned and executed to ensure consistency, reliability, and thoroughness. 

In a systematic approach, elements are arranged logically and sequentially to achieve a specific goal or objective. This term is often used to describe methods, procedures, or approaches that are characterized by their orderliness and adherence to a set of rules or principles.

Examples of Systemic vs. Systematic thinking in everyday life

In everyday life, we often use both systemic and systematic thinking without even realizing it. For example, when we are trying to figure out why our car won’t start, we may first think systematically about all of the individual parts that need to be working in order for the car to start (the battery, the spark plugs, the fuel pump, etc.). Once we have ruled out all of the potential problems with those individual parts, we may then start to think more holistically about other possible causes (maybe it’s not getting enough gas because the tank is only half full).

Both systemic and systematic thinking are useful approaches for solving problems. which one you use will depend on the specific problem you are trying to solve and your own personal preference.

Pros and Cons of using Systemic and Systematic thinking

When it comes to thinking about problems and coming up with solutions, there are two main approaches that people tend to take: systemic thinking and systematic thinking. Both of these approaches have their own pros and cons that you should consider before deciding which one is right for you.

Systemic thinking is a more holistic approach that takes into account all of the different variables and factors that could be affecting a situation. This can be helpful when trying to understand complex problems or identify potential issues that may not be immediately apparent. However, it can also make it more difficult to find specific solutions or pinpoint the root cause of a problem.

Systematic thinking is a more linear and logical approach that breaks down a problem into smaller pieces in order to better understand it. This can make it easier to find specific solutions, but it can also make it more difficult to see the big picture or identify potential issues that may not be immediately apparent.

Both systemic and systematic thinking have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider which one is right for you before making a decision. If you’re facing a complex problem, then systemic thinking may be the best approach. However, if you’re looking for specific solutions, then systematic thinking may be a better option.

How to use methods together for optimal results

1. Start with a clear vision. What do you want to achieve? What are your goals? Having a clear vision will help you determine which approach (or combination of approaches) is best suited for your needs.

2. Create a plan. Once you know what you want to achieve, develop a plan of action. This plan should outline the steps you’ll take to reach your goals.

3. Implement the plan. This is where both systematic and systemic change come into play. Work on one element at a time, making sure each piece is in place before moving on to the next. This methodical approach will ensure that everything works together seamlessly and helps avoid any potential problems down the road.

4. Evaluate and adjust as needed. As you implement your plan, pay close attention to how things are going. If something isn’t working as expected, don’t be afraid to make adjustments until you get the desired results.

Systemic Thinking:


  • Holistic Understanding: Provides a comprehensive view of complex issues by considering interconnections and interdependencies.
  • Effective Problem Solving: Addresses root causes, leading to more lasting solutions rather than just treating symptoms.
  • Anticipates Consequences: Helps foresee potential outcomes and unintended effects of actions within a system.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: Encourages cross-disciplinary cooperation due to its focus on interrelated aspects.


  1. Complexity: Analyzing intricate relationships can be challenging and time-consuming.
  2. Data Requirements: Requires extensive data to accurately model and understand system dynamics.
  3. Uncertainty: Predicting all outcomes accurately might be impossible due to the complexity of interactions.
  4. Resistance to Change: Systemic changes might face resistance from those benefiting from the current state.

Systematic Thinking:


  • Efficiency: Offers a structured approach, ensuring tasks are completed methodically.
  • Clear Steps: Provides a roadmap for tackling problems, making it easier to follow and implement.
  • Reduced Errors: Minimizes oversight or neglect of important details due to its organized nature.
  • Replicability: Can be easily replicated for consistent results in various situations.


  1. Narrow Focus: Might miss broader implications by concentrating on isolated steps.
  2. Rigidity: May not adapt well to unpredictable or rapidly changing scenarios.
  3. Limited Creativity: Overemphasis on following a set process might hinder innovative thinking.
  4. Inadequate for Complex Issues: Some problems require a deeper understanding beyond systematic procedures.

Key differences between Systemic and Systematic 

  • Focus and Scope:
    • Systemic: Focuses on understanding the interconnections, relationships, and interactions within a complex system. It considers the broader context and the impact of various elements on each other.
    • Systematic: Concentrates on following a structured and sequential approach to accomplish tasks or solve problems. It emphasizes organizing steps and processes in a logical order.
  • Purpose:
    • Systemic: Primarily used to analyze and address complex issues, identifying underlying causes and designing solutions that consider the entire system’s dynamics.
    • Systematic: Applied to streamline processes, ensure consistency, and facilitate efficient execution of tasks. It’s more task-oriented and procedural.
  • Application:
    • Systemic: Commonly used in fields like sociology, ecology, economics, and systems thinking, where understanding interactions and patterns is crucial.
    • Systematic: Applied across various disciplines and industries to achieve structured, repeatable, and reliable outcomes, such as in project management, quality control, and procedural tasks.
Differences between Systemic and Systematic


Systemic and systematic are two words that sound similar, but they have different meanings. Systemic refers to how a system works as a whole, while systematic is about the individual parts of the system. Understanding the distinctions between these two terms can help you analyze processes more accurately and make better decisions for your business or organization.

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