Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Systems Thinking 2 course, Aalto University, February 2016

As part of the Master’s Program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, I’ll be in Finland for 3 weeks in February, as an instructor.  I’m doing this as a favour for Katri Pulkkinen, who has been teaching the course since 2010, and felt that she needed some extra time to work on her Ph.D. dissertation.

Systems Thinking 2 follows in a series of compulsory courses, each with specified learning outcomes:

  • Creative Teamwork: “The course focuses on working methods co-operation practices within the studies and the professional field of sustainability”.
  • Creating the Mindset of Sustainable Societies: “To create the common ground of sustainability studies and to learn to deal with different scopes of sustainability concept in complex environments. Understanding mindsets and sustainable societies: what this means in political, governmental, business, organizational, individual and groups/community levels”.
  • Systems Thinking 1: “Learning the basics of the systems thinking approach in the context of sustainability. The students who have participated actively in the intensive course will be able to use the basic vocabulary and concepts of the systems thinking approach. The students also develop their skills in working and presenting ideas in multi-disciplinary teams”.
  • Systems Thinking 2: “Learning how systems thinking can be applied in questions of sustainability in different fields. During this intensive course, the students familiarize themselves with different ways of using the systems approach to tackle problematic situations. The aim is to understand both the versatility of the systems approach and the importance of choosing the right systems tools for each case. The students learn to interpret and present systems thinking ideas and to apply them to their own field”.

The official content of the course is delivered in intensive sessions:

  • During this intensive course, the students study materials from different sources and make presentations to the course, using a peer learning method. The reading materials cover several ideas of systems thinking applications. The intensive course consists of 4-5 days of lectures, team work and presentations, and individual learning diary and a final essay.

On January 12, my colleagues Susu Nousala and Glen Forde launched the course in a 2-hour session with orientation materials.  The course content is available on the open Internet at http://coevolving.com/aalto/201602-st2-muo-e8004/, and has been evolving over the past week.

Map 00: Course content

The 25 students have been organized into 8 groups.  Each group is preparing to stake a position on a research reference cluster, to lead an hour discussion for the class.  The systems concepts have been specified as:

  • Cluster 1:  Appreciative systems, futures
  • Cluster 2:  Boundary, inquiry, perspectives
  • Cluster 3:  Learning categories, postnormal science
  • Cluster 4:  Dialogue, engagement, intervention
  • Cluster 5:  Ecosystems, collapse, resilience
  • Cluster 6:  Coevolution, turbulence, anticipatory systems
  • Cluster 7:  Living systems, viable systems, metabolism
  • Cluster 8:  Social-ecological systems, regime shifts

After the lead group has staked its position, the discussion will continue with two additional groups challenging the presentation that they’ve just seen.

The list of research references is large.  The intent of the course is not that everyone should read everything, but instead that much of the sensemaking will occur during the intensive sessions as students think together.   As an aid for students who aren’t leading the discussion, I’ve prepared some basic outlines as maps, based on the systems thinking courses delivered at Aalto University in 2010-2011, plus some new references.

The students in the Creative Sustainability program are diverse, coming from disciplinary undergraduate training in architecture, business, design and/or real estate.  As groups, they’ll be working together to make sense of each of the research clusters.  As individuals, we’ll see their blogs showing up on the open Internet, each reflecting their progress on evolving his or her unique perspective.

 


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