What the h*** is Systems Thinking?

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Originally posted on The Green Rose:

Since graduating with my Masters in Design for Sustainability I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends, family and potential employers about my degree and they mostly just want to know what “Design for Sustainability” actually means. Oh, I remember the good old days of telling people I worked in architecture and seeing the bright light of recognition behind their eyes! Truly, I didn’t understand what I had. But when I entered grad school I didn’t totally understand what I was getting myself into either. I did know that I wanted to spend my life in a creative field where I could improve the Earth’s and therefore our ability to maintain a vibrant, healthy environment. When my future professor described the program as being based on systems thinking, my eyes glazed over;  an ironic foreshadowing of future networking conversations. In my job application cover letters, I describe the program as using “human-centered design methodologies, interdisciplinary collaboration…

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A group composed of brilliant individuals will not automatically be the most brilliant group

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Originally posted on Neurologism:

Perhaps the whole can be better than the sum of its parts?

I came across a very interesting study on McGill University’s excellent Brain from Top to Bottom Blog.


In this study of collective intelligence, the researchers performed numerous statistical analyses. The most interesting finding that emerged from them, and that went beyond the debate about just what exactly collective intelligence might represent, was that this factor was not highly correlated with either the average intelligence of the groups’ members or with the intelligence of the group member who had scored the highest on the individual-intelligence test. In other words, a group composed of brilliant individuals will not automatically be the most brilliant group.
The psychologists did find some factors that let them predict whether a given group would be collectively intelligent. But to identify three, they had to look at factors associated with co-operation. The first such…

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We are what we say: how language shapes our brains

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Originally posted on Brainwaves For Leaders:

Adair Jones, a  Brainwaves for Leaders  staff writer and an expert in linguistics, has been thinking a lot about  the neuroscience of language and the effect it has on our behaviour. She includes a round up of some of the latest thinking on the subject.

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Languages differences

Since human languages vary considerably in the information they convey, scholars have long wondered how this might affect how we think and how we behave. According to Lera Boroditsky, an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD, in a 2011 article for Scientific American, “A solid body of evidence showing how language shapes thinking has finally emerged. The evidence overturns the long standing dogma about universality and yields fascinating insights into the origins of knowledge and the construction of reality. The results have important implications for law, politics, and education.”

And business, one might add.

Research in Boroditsky’s lab, as well as…

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Paper or pixels? Does the medium affect the way people read?

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Paper or pixels? Does the medium affect the way people read?

Andrew Dillon Ph.D., the dean of the Graduate School of Information Science at the University of Texas has written a very interesting blog post on the nuances of online reading.

Reading beyond cognition

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m interested in the topic of thinking on a holistic level. I consider systems thinking and embodied cognition milestones towards the goal of holistic thinking. Given that interest, I found Mr. Dillon’s comment at #2 in the list below a good reminder to what reading requires:

2) The act of reading involves all levels of human activity: physical, perceptual, cognitive and social. We tend to think of it only as a perceptual and cognitive act but materials must be located and handled, and the forms of information we share reflect cultural and behavioral norms of groups which manifest as genres and types. Any significant act of reading moves seamlessly among these levels of engagement.

The medium matters

Not all types of content should be consumed on the same medium. The medium matters. Your goals behind consuming the content also matters. Consider the following comment from the same article:

With most of the material we read during the working day and online, we often aren’t willing to commit to the full range and stop after scanning. Content providers know this and produce accordingly. Add to this the delivery of digital material on a platform that is constantly refreshing, updating and allows users to multi-task across applications, and the results are a series of short acts involving the perusal and reaction to messages and short form texts that break up the normal progression through deep reading tasks.

Is this bad? Not if your goal is to keep on top of changing contexts and identify facts. Yes if you want to read a novel or really study a technical report.

Read the whole article

This excerpt doesn’t do the original post any justice. I recommend reading the entire article: “Reading Online is Ruining My Life…” Graduate School of Information – University of Texas, blog post by Andrew Dillon Ph.D. Downloaded April 10, 2014 from: http://blogs.ischool.utexas.edu/infomatters/2014/04/10/reading-online-is-ruining-my-life

Listen to a related podcast

I also recommend listening to a recent NPR radio affiliate interview with Mr. Dillon titled: “Is reading online affecting your ability to learn?“. SCPR.org “Airtalk” by Larry Mantle, Downloaded on April 10, 2014.http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2014/04/10/36878/is-reading-online-affecting-our-ability-to-learn/

Your day your city your future; a unique project encompassing Civic Engagement, Film Making, Social Media, Educational, and Art.

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Originally posted on The Curious Case Of Passion:

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Your Day. Your City. Your Future. is a unique project encompassing Civic Engagement, Film Making, Social Media, Educational, and Art.

Most of the world’s people now live in Cities. As global population swells, the efficiency and functionality of our cities are essential to the sustainability of human existence. Cities are the centers of our current society. They exist for the people they serve. Help us take a closer look at how we can better live together in tight communities, with the best services that provide opportunities for the future. Your Day. Your City. Your Future. is a campaign platform that inspires urbanites to tell stories that inform a more sustainable future in their cities.

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Zooming out from healthcare to systems thinking

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Originally posted on Find What Works:

I’ve written about health systems in a few other places recently: a post on Humanosphere talks about health systems in general, and a post on Reboot’s blog looks at lessons from governance reform. Both posts were sparked by a recent event hosted by the Center for Global Development, Population Services International, and others.

One of the big takeaways from the event was the need for the global health sector to renew its focus on health systems strengthening. Experts from several organizations and donors acknowledged the successes of disease-specific approaches in recent years, but highlighted how enabling environments and system-level interventions hold promise for improving health outcomes across multiple conditions. Thinking about systems is important in global health and, more broadly, international development.

However, there are several distinctions to be made as we zoom out from health to the systems surrounding it. At the risk of being pedantic, I want to slice up our thinking…

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