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Type: Journal article
Title: Can advancements in economic and managerial practice be achieved without systems thinking education as the foundation?
Author: Bosch, O.
Nguyen, N.
Ha, T.
Citation: Business Systems Review, 2014; 3(2):33-53
Publisher: Business Systems Laboratory
Issue Date: 2014
ISSN: 2280-3866
Statement of
Ockie Bosch, Nam Nguyen, Tuan Minh Ha
Abstract: Complex economic and managerial problems cannot be solved anymore with traditional single discipline and linear thinking mindsets. Employers will therefore increasingly require their employees to have the capacity to redesign in systems and sustainability terms. In other words, there is an increasing demand for society to move away from linear thinking that often leads to “quick fixes” that do not last, to a new way of thinking that is systems-based. Understanding the principles of interconnectedness, feedback and leverage points in systems and appreciating the value of cross-sectoral/disciplinary communication and collaboration are the only ways in which society will be able to find long lasting, sustainable solutions to the many problems we are facing. Developing such an understanding in order to address complex economic and managerial challenges, requires a strong level of awareness of the value of knowledge on systems approaches and tools that will increase the demand for systems education. However, it is evident in many institutions worldwide that the establishment of systems education is a highly complex task. The Evolutionary Learning Laboratory (ELLab) for dealing with complex issues was therefore used to establish an ELLab for systems education in the Adelaide University Business School. This caused a revolution regarding the integration of systems concepts into discipline specific courses and the development of standalone core systems courses that will help to instill those graduate attributes that industry wants. The ELLab consists of seven steps, starting with the gathering and integration of the mental models of all stakeholders (academics, industry and government departments), followed by capacity building of lecturers, participatory processes to identify graduate attributes and course contents, course offerings (implementation) and a reflection (through questionnaires, analysis and discussion) on the degree to which these graduate attributes are being achieved. The reflection step of the first round in 2013 of the cyclic process of implementation, reflection and adapting the course contents or modes of delivery, has revealed that students have shifted their way of thinking significantly from limited understanding and linear thinking to more coherent and interconnected thinking. During the pre-learning phase one third of the students were inclined to jump to the solution (i.e. treating the symptoms and “quick fixes”). After completing the course nearly 60 percent of the students mentioned the use of their knowledge on systems-based approaches, highlighting the system component interactions, unintended consequences, leverage points and systemic interventions. There was a clear improvement of the knowledge on interconnected thinking and how to deal with complexity and a change in their attitude towards the course. Significant changes also occur in their skill levels (capability to use system tools) and their aspirations (willing- and eagerness to apply their learnings). Based on the survey results and analyses, it could be concluded that systems thinking education can be regarded as the leverage or systemic intervention for being able to take action towards the advancement of economic and managerial practices to improve knowledge, attitude, skills and aspirations. The vision is to link the Adelaide ELLab globally with other institutions that are involved with systems education.
Keywords: Systems Thinking education; Evolutionary Learning Laboratory; Complex problems; New way of thinking; Systems in practice; Systems tools; Co-learning; Graduate attributes; New era MBA; Global Evolutionary Learning Laboratory (GELL); Cross-institutional collaboration; Problem solving; Root causes; Holistic approach; Multi-stakeholder involvement; Capacity for change
Rights: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit
DOI: 10.7350/BSR.D07.2014
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