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3 Reasons your team needs system thinking training

MIT Open Learning

MIT Prof. Crawley shares top reasons why managers should consider investing in system thinking training for employees in 2023



Could your team benefit from system thinking training?

If you ask Professor Edward Crawley, one of the MIT lead faculty instructors for MIT xPRO’s online course on system thinking, the answer is most likely a resounding yes.

Leaders and individual contributors use system thinking in professional settings to understand how organizations work; complex technologies; optimal ways to track, organize, and utilize information; intricate processes; and more.

“There’s creative thinking, which allows you to think of new ways to do things. There’s critical thinking, which allows you to analyze the validity of things you’re doing. System thinking allows you to think about things as systems,” explains Professor Crawley.

Why invest in system thinking training now?

In a recent conversation with Professor Crawley, we discussed the top reasons managers and decision-makers should consider investing in system thinking training for employees in 2023:

1. Keep pace with increasingly complex systems in the workplace

The world is made up of systems (i.e., individual entities and the relationships between them). As these systems become increasingly complex, the ability to think of things as systems is becoming a critical skill for the 21st century.

Professor Crawley points toward a few systems in the workplace that are getting more complex:

  • Teams of people. In the past, teams were relatively small, and everyone had the chance to interact with one another directly. Today, teams are bigger and are tasked with doing more-with the additional challenge of being less centralized due to a rise in remote work. The number of teams within an organization is also much larger. As a result of these changes, team dynamics are growing in complexity.
  • Products and services. The products and services organizations build and sell to consumers comprise increasingly more elements that require more interactions. Professor Crawley references the telephone as an example of a product that is now remarkably complex. In the 1950s, the telephone had one function (to talk to someone) and one place (plugged into the wall). Now, phones link to networks anywhere in the world and are used to communicate all kinds of data.
  • Business and technical processes. Organizations are using business and technical processes that are only becoming more intricate and involved: there are more steps in the processes and more complex sequencing and execution of those steps.

2. Maintain a competitive advantage

Professor Crawley explains that one of the reasons systems are growing in complexity is that businesses and consumers demand optimized performance.

  • For smartphones to continue to sell, for example, the companies that make these devices must consistently improve performance, which requires understanding and building complex systems.
  • For commercial airline companies to remain competitive, they must determine how to make planes more effective and efficient, which requires understanding and building complex systems.

With system thinking training, businesses across all industries benefit from the ability to continuously create competitive new products and services faster than ever before.

3. Attract and retain top talent

Today’s workers seek opportunities for professional development and continuous learning in the workplace, with 94% of employees reporting that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in these initiatives.

Organizations that develop learning and development (L&D) plans for their employees, with a focus on system thinking training, benefit not only from having system thinkers in the workplace but also from the added perk of attracting, retaining, and motivating top talent who value continuous learning.

Strengthen your team with system thinking training

Professor Crawley concludes that training employees to think about systems empowers them to take on more challenging tasks; manage more complex projects, work together more effectively; anticipate future developments; and expect more from the processes, products, and services they build. He notes that these are all valuable outcomes for any business.

“The ability to foresee the future gives you a real competitive advantage,” says Professor Crawley. “With system thinking, you can learn to identify and anticipate patterns in systems to help you predict what’s next.”

If you’re considering system thinking training for your team, start by learning more about MIT xPRO’s 5-week online system thinking course. All members of an organization can benefit from system thinking and learn to apply system thinking frameworks, regardless of previous experience or expertise.

Originally published at http://curve.mit.edu on February 1, 2023.

3 Reasons your team needs system thinking training was originally published in MIT Open Learning on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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