Russell Ackoff put it well, “Managers are not confronted with problems that are independent of each other, but with dynamic situations that consist of complex systems of changing problems that interact with each other. I call such situations messes.” Horst Rittel called them “wicked problems.”

No matter what we call them, most of the challenges that really matter involve systems, for example, energy and global warming; water, food, and population; and health and social justice. And in the day- to-day world of business, new products that create high value almost all involve systems, too, for example, Alibaba and Amazon; Facebook and Google; and Apple and Samsung.