operational thinking

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The definition of operational thinking as defined here comes from the systems school of thinking. Though related, operational thinking should not be confused with the terms operations, operational, or business operations, which pertain to the ongoing activities of the business to produce and deliver its offerings.

Operational thinking is generally referred to as a type of systems thinking, but it can also be thought of as core to the systems thinking mindset with its focus on how how things work. From this perspective, systems thinking can be described as an operational mindset, focusing on the interrelationships of things as being responsible for how things operate, as opposed to other mindsets.

Operational thinking contrasts with other types of thinking. For example, there are relational or correlational mindsets, looking for relationships but not necessarily seeking to understand cause and effect. There is the reductionistic analytical mindset which focuses on how things are made up from other things and linear cause and effect, but not necessarily on why the whole behaves the way it does or how it will behave over time.