Whether you need to tackle a complex project, communicate more effectively, rethink your organization or your job, solve world hunger, or figure out your teenager, systems thinking can help you. All of these are complex and challenging real-world problems, sometimes called wicked problems. We all confront problems, big and small, in our personal and professional lives, and most of us are searching for better ways to solve them. In this course, Professors Derek and Laura Cabrera will demonstrate how we can use systems thinking to solve everyday and wicked problems, to transform our organizations, and to increase our personal effectiveness.
At its core, systems thinking attempts to better align the way we think with how the real world works. Our thinking is based on our mental models, but these models, created from our unique perspective with its inherent biases, are usually inadequate representations of reality. The Cabreras illustrate how we can use feedback to recognize and adapt our mental models so that they better align with reality, enhancing our problem-solving capabilities.
For systems thinking to be successful, it must be adaptive. In this course, you will explore the concept of complex adaptive systems, and while these systems seem unnecessarily complicated, the Cabreras will reveal a surprising discovery. Underlying all complex adaptive systems are simple rules, and applying these rules is the key to transforming the way we frame and solve everyday problems.
Key Course Takeaways
Identify and describe the problems you want to solve in your personal and professional lives
Examine the mental models you have and how they differ from reality
Determine how you can use feedback to improve your mental models
Recognize the biases that you have that can distort your mental models
Examine complex adaptive systems and the simple rules that underlie these systems
Determine how systems thinking is a complex adaptive system
Explore the four simple rules that underlie systems thinking
For over 15 years, Laura has conducted translational research to increase public understanding, application, and dissemination of systems science, including for USDA, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, HHS, and the Dept. of Justice.
She is also a senior researcher at Cabrera Research Lab, has authored five books on systems thinking and its applications, and is a member of the United States Military Academy at West Point’s Systems Engineering Advisory Board.
Laura holds a PhD in Policy Analysis and Management, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a B.A., all from Cornell.
Derek Cabrera (Ph.D., Cornell) is a systems scientist, Professor, and social entrepreneur and is internationally known for his work in systems thinking, systems leadership, and systems modeling. He is currently visiting faculty at Cornell University where he teaches systems thinking and organizational leadership and design. He is senior scientist at Cabrera Research Lab, and co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Plectica. He has given two TED Talks, written and produced a rap song, a children’s book on cognition, and authored numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles. His research has been profiled in peer-reviewed journals, trade magazines, and popular publications, and he is author of eight books including, Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems (winner of the 2017 AECT outstanding book award), Thinking at Every Desk: Four Simple Skills to Transform Your Classroom, and Flock Not Clock: Align People, Processes, and Systems to Achieve your Vision. Credited with discovering the underlying rules of systems thinking, Cabrera is co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Systems Thinking. His work in public schools was documented in the full-length documentary film, RE:Thinking. He was Research Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) for the Study of Complex Systems and National Science Foundation IGERT Fellow in Nonlinear Systems in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at Cornell University. As a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow, he developed new techniques to model systems approaches in the evaluation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Cabrera was awarded the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ K. Patricia Cross Future Educational Leaders Award. He serves on the United States Military Academy at West Point’s Systems Engineering Advisory Board. His contributions to the field of systems thinking have been integrated into NSF, NIH, and USDA-NIFA programs, K-12, higher education, NGOs, federal agencies, corporations, and business schools. His systems models are used by many of Silicon Valley’s most innovative companies. Systems Thinking Made Simple is used as an introductory text for undergraduate and graduate students in numerous colleges and universities including Cornell University and West Point Military Academy. Cabrera has developed and patented a suite of systems thinking tools for use in academia, business, and beyond. Prior to becoming a scientist, Cabrera worked for fifteen years around the world as a mountain guide and experiential educator for Outward Bound and other organizations and has climbed many of the world’s highest mountains. He holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and lives in Ithaca, NY, with his wife, Laura Cabrera, three children, and four dogs.
Managers, leaders, decision makers, consultants, and anyone responsible for projects, complex processes, and the budgets and people involved with them. Learners will come from every continent and from a diverse range of organizations, including private sector companies large and small, nonprofits, governments, and NGOs.
For people already interested in systems dynamics or soft systems methodologies, the core principles from this program can be applied to any systems-based models.
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