Systems Thinking: The Crux of Organizational Learning

In organizations, individual employees must think (and rethink) about various systems in order to constantly improve them. Systems thinking drives organizational learning. Experts in systems thinking and cognitive science, Drs. Derek and Laura Cabrera have revolutionized the systems thinking field with the identification of four underlying cognitive skills that are universal to all systems thinking frameworks: making Distinctions, organizing part-whole Systems, recognizing Relationships, and taking Perspectives (DSRP).

Beyond their academic work on systems theory, the Cabreras’ research lab has developed methodologies, tools, and technology to simplify and amplify the systems thinking process. The backbone of an organization's ability to learn and evolve is individual learning. The backbone to individual learning is systems thinking. This white paper offers a brief review of the Cabreras’ work within systems thinking and systems leadership, the topic of their research, their semester-long courses at Cornell University, and their groundbreaking mapping tool, Plectica.

The success of any organization is dependent on its ability to adapt to feedback from the environment and thrive in the face of change. In short, the organization has to learn. But in order for an organization to learn, its people have to learn. And when learning, people think. So how do people think, anyway? How can they think smarter? And what can organizations do to help them think smarter?

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