Methods in Systems Thinking

Learn the fundamentals of design thinking + systems thinking–and how to wield them together

Spring 2016
Day 1: April 22, 10am-5pm

Day 2: April 29: 10am-5pm
Day 3: May 6th, 10am-5pm
Day 4: May 20th, 10am-12:30pm
Studio 2
2 Units
Letter Grade

Systemic challenges can only be solved by systemic solutions. The real world is messy—with complex and scaled social or environmental challenges. As we attempt to tackle challenges of increasing complexity, we need to learn how to innovate at the systems level, across multiple users and stakeholders. We need to understand what is going on from a systems perspective, make insightful decisions about where and how to intervene, and finally design actionable solutions that can change the behavior of the system. Challenges such as food security, water security, energy, financial access, health, and climate change are not just complicated problems with predictable behaviors, but fall in the realm of complex problems, where the state of each of the components are a result of their relationships to other parts of the system.

System Acupuncture is a design approach that combines Design Thinking with Systems Thinking. It is a way of approaching a system that identifies the drivers of systemic outcomes, maps the causal chains and the stakeholder networks, its complex relationships, and peers into the minds and hearts of the people involved, all in order to understand why we are getting the current outcomes. We then use a set of system tools to strategize where we might intervene and bring about powerful changes and how to make the intervention actionable and transformative.

In this unique class, you will learn the tools of System Acupuncture, and get a hands-on experience at approaching a complex challenge through a systems lens. The class will expose you to the fundamentals of Design Thinking, and then step you through System Acupuncture tools. You will learn how to interrogate the dynamics of the system, understand the stakeholder networks, and understand the actions and beliefs of the people that shape the current outcomes. You will then use design tools to frame the vision of a future state, and decide where to intervene in the system and how. Simultaneously, you will use Design Thinking processes to ensure that your interventions are grounded in reality, is human-centered, and deeply transformative.

After having taken this class, you will be able to look at any challenge with a systems view bring the mindset of System Acupuncture. You will have increased confidence and an expanded toolset to approach complex and scaled challenges.

18 students. Priority given to Graduate students, Seniors and Co-term students are encouraged to apply.
Application Closed

Teaching Team
Banny Banerjee, Professor of the Practice, School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Systems
Anja Svetina Nabergoj, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, University of Ljubljan
Theodora Gibbs, Senior Design Strategist, Stanford ChangeLabs
Jeff Mohr, Founder, Kumu

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