As part of my recent trip to Boston, I attended a Leadership/systems thinking workshop at MIT taught by Peter Senge. The goal of that workshop was to pair teams of Leadership Lab (or “L-lab”) students with various organizations of different sizes and scopes. Among the organizations represented were Caterpillar, West Elm, and OCP. This arrangement had a dual purpose: to assist these organizations in developing their sustainability initiatives through systems thinking, and to provide real-life learning opportunities and challenges for the students of L-lab.
I went as a part of NOS (Noroeste Sustentable), a small NGO based in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. My role as an attendee was primarily to provide support to Alejandro Robles, the organization’s director. This was, of course, an amazing opportunity to learn about systems thinking from Peter Senge. But I also went with “half an eye”—as I told one of the instructors—towards learning about the Leadership MBA they offer at MIT Sloan (and PhD opportunities, as well).
Systems thinking is a framework for thought and leadership developed from the multidisciplinary approach to engineering provided by systems dynamics. Systems dynamics quantitatively and qualitatively studies the components of physical systems, their interactions, and tries to model and predict otherwise unpredictable behaviors that occur from the complexity of the interactions involved. Systems thinking takes this discipline and and focuses on teaching people how to view the world in terms of a complex set of interactions, which are predominantly hidden and inaccessible to our firsthand experience.