The Iceberg Model

The iceberg model is a valuable tool to encourage systemic thinking.

It helps you contextualize an issue as part of a whole system. By asking you to connect an event–a single incident or occurrence–to patterns of behavior, systems structures, and mental models, the iceberg allows you to see the structures underlying the event.

Just like an iceberg, 90% of which is invisible beneath the water, these structures are often hidden below the surface. However, if you can identify them and connect them to the events that you are seeing, you may be able to develop lasting solutions that target the whole system rather than short term, reactive solutions.

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Image of an iceberg with Events, Patterns of Behavior, Systems Structure, and Mental Models arranged in increasing order of leverage