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Thinking in Systems: Practical Lessons for Building Sustainable Organizations & Communities


Inspired by the book Thinking in Systems - A Primer by Donella Meadows this recorded web seminar series is a collaborative effort between isee systems, Pontifex Consulting and the Sustainability Institute.

Fee: $149
Format: Online access to recorded presentations, handouts and models
Topics: Session 1: Introduction to Systems
Session 2: The Systems Zoo
Session 3: System Behavior
Session 4: Leverage Points


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 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.

Online Training Price Qty  
Thinking in Systems: Practical Lessons for Building Sustainable Organizations & Communities $149.00 Add to Cart
Thinking in Systems by Donnella Meadows (optional reading for course)  $19.95 Buy from
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Online Course Terms and Conditions of Use

Course Syllabus

Session 1: Introduction to Systems: Basic Principles

  • 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?
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 STELLA.

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 agriculture).

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

  • 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?
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.

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 and advisor.

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.

Course Requirements


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