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Synthesis is the complement of analysis, which produces knowledge, which enables us to describe. Synthesis produces understanding, answering the why questions, enabling us to explain.

Analysis does not work for understanding systems because of the emergence of the system's properties from the interaction of the parts in fulfilling function(s) within its environment.

Synthesis process

  1. Identifying a containing whole (system) of which the thing to be explained is a part
  2. Explain the behavior or properties of the containing whole
  3. Then explain the behavior or properties of the thing to be explained in terms of its role(s) or function(s) within its containing whole

Management implications --
Synthesis, and systems thinking, is characterized by phrases such as -- ""let's look at the big picture"" and ""seek to understand."" Synthetic management thinking might be more commonly called holistic thinking or systems thinking. This management approach will focus on understanding the whole, improving the whole, and arranging the parts and their relationships to improve the whole.

Source: Ackoff, 1981 and Gharajedaghi, 1999