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Causal thinking in groups requires the participants to explicitly agree on, and then describe and illustrate, the causal links between ideas that represent a cause variable and ideas that represent its effect variables.

An effective and popular application of causal thinking is found in Systems Thinking, where a causal loop diagram explicitly illustrates the structural, causal relationship between system variables. When causal links are used in causal loop diagrams, they are represented by drawing arrows from the causes to their effects, and then by “signing” the arrow to indicate the direction of the causality.

Another useful application of causal thinking is known as a causal drivers diagram, or as a relations diagram. Using the Thinking with Hexagons technique to general ideas and cluster labels, or other means, the group selects a number of factors to be considered as either causes or effects within a system of interest. A facilitator asks the group to examine the relationship of each possible pair of factors being displayed, and then answer these questions: (a) Does a causal relationship exist between these two factors? (b) If yes, then, which is the cause and which is the effect. Then, the facilitator draws a causal link arrow from the cause to the effect (the link is not signed as described above). This questioning continues until all pairs have been considered and arrows drawn. Finally, the group counts the number of arrows going into and out from each factor. The factors that have more arrows going out are known as drivers because they have a greater causal impact than the others. The factors with more arrows coming in that going out are known as drivens or indicators.

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