Ask an MIT Professor: What Is System Thinking and Why Is It Important?

Look around you, and you’ll see: life as we know it is becoming more and more complex.

From the iPhone in your pocket to the organizations driving public health, national defense, finance, criminal justice, and [insert just about anything else you can imagine], the world is powered by increasingly intricate systems working behind the scenes to integrate countless moving pieces into a meaningful whole.

“One of the characteristics of the 21st century is that we’re investing more in complexity, and things are just getting damn complicated,” says Professor Edward Crawley, Ford Department of Engineering, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT.

Professor Crawley is one of the MIT lead faculty instructors for MIT xPRO’s online course on system thinking, a skill that helps organizations examine and simplify complexity, recognize patterns, and create effective solutions to challenges. He considers system thinking “the cognitive skill of the 21st century.” We recently sat down with Professor Crawley to discuss system thinking and what learners can expect from his course.

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