Thinking in Systems: Practical Lessons for Building Sustainable Organizations
& Communities is a four part recorded webinar series based on concepts from
Donella Meadow’s latest book Thinking in Systems – A Primer.
The course is designed to help you apply Systems Thinking to
build sustainable organizations and communities using iThink and STELLA.
Instructors Chris Soderquist and Diana Wright introduce you
to powerful Systems Thinking concepts presented in the primer.
Using compelling examples from today's headline news, Chris and
Diana demonstrate how Systems Thinking can be used to better
understand the interconnections of complex dynamic systems like the economy,
environment, and social systems. You'll develop practical skills for applying
these concepts to your own organizations, communities...and yes, even your personal
life...to build a more resilient and sustainable world!
Each recorded session includes approximately 50 minutes of instruction followed by questions and answers. Online access to handouts that summarize session content, sample models and supplemental reading materials will cement learning.
Session 1: Introduction to Systems: Basic Principles
See and define systems in your organizations, communities, and personal lives. Apply the
stock and flow mapping language to represent those systems using iThink and
- What is a system?
- What's the value of using the stock and flow language to represent systems?
- How do feedback loops generate complex dynamic behavior?
- How can systems be designed to achieve a target? What prevents this?
Session 2: The Systems Zoo: Simple examples of common systems
Understand behavioral dynamics of "The Systems Zoo" or common system
structures. See similarities between members of the zoo and dynamics occurring
in the news. Determine the sustainability implications of misunderstanding how
these zoo members behave in real life. Know the difference between systems
with finite supply stocks (oil or minerals) and infinite supply stocks (fisheries or
Session 3: System Behavior: Surprises, traps, and opportunities
Build your Systems Thinking skills by translating the archetypes of The Fifth Discipline to
stock and flow models that simulate system behavior. Explore model boundaries and identify
potential unintended consequences. Design policies and strategies that are most likely to be
effective. Communicate systems principles with colleagues and stakeholders.
Session 4: Leverage Points: Places to intervene in a system
Understand the hierarchy of intervention types, from simple tweaks to transformational
shifts in rules and paradigms. Analyze different policy options to see where
they fall on the continuum. Create a dialogue with colleagues and stakeholders to lift the
perspective of options to the highest level necessary for system improvement.
- Why do so many interventions fail to make improvements - or sometimes
make things worse?
- What are paradigms? And how do they contribute to a systems performance?
- Where are the highest leverage points for making our systems more sustainable?
About the Instructors
Chris Soderquist is the president of Pontifex Consulting.
Since 1998 he’s worked
with executives and middle-level managers to develop strategic solutions to complex issues.
His clients include: Alcoa, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, Mayo Clinic, NASA,
Pfizer, Sony Ericsson, United Way, and the World Bank.
Chris' background in Systems Thinking began at Northwestern University where he first
began integrating scientific methods with human decision making processes. He worked
with isee systems (then High Performance Systems) for over four years, where he was
a lead consultant, trainer, and learning environment developer. Chris contributed to the
book Thinking in Systems - A Primer by Donella Meadows as a reviewer
Diana Wright is a researcher at the Sustainability Institute.
She has conducted
research on topics such as community systems, poverty alleviation, energy and
climate change. For more than a decade, Diana collaborated with Donella Meadows
and was a contributor of much of the research incorporated in the writing of her
books. She was the editor of Donnella Meadows recent publication Thinking in
Systems - A Primer.