Our world is complex and uncertain, but our thinking about the world is often too linear and constrained within overly-narrow boundaries. Systems thinking can help to deal with complex problems by enabling us to view the situation within a wider context, and by exploring underlying structures and mental models.
On 4 March 2021, Professor Gerald Midgley, a researcher in systems thinking, held a webinar on Systems Thinking for Wicked Problems. The seminar, organized by the Linnaeus University Systems Community and the Center for Systems Studies at the University of Hull in England, attracted over 260 participants from around the world, both academics and business people. The feedback was incredibly positive, including over 70 e-mail comments and blog posts.
Systems thinking has been researched for over 100 years, and it is more relevant now than ever before due to so-called wicked problems: highly complex, stubborn and challenging problems in society. These problems often have multiple actors, different perspectives on both problems and potential changes, conflicts, power relations, uncertainty, and they usually need to be managed rather than resolved. Systems thinking can contribute to this by helping people appreciate the situation within a wider context, and by exploring underlying structures and mental models.
Gerald Midgley is an International Visiting Professor of Systems Thinking for Sustainability in the Department of Informatics at Linnaeus University, a position funded by the Knowledge Foundation (project number 20190256).