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Systems Thinking Essentials

Explore, understand & make meaningful change within complex systems
Systems Thinking


Course information

Systems Thinking offers us new ways of working at every level, from teams to wider society, making our organisations more effective, our products and services better designed and our environmental and social impact more positive. Our online Systems Thinking Essentials course will teach you how to visualise complex systems, better understand the critical relationships that shape them, and innovate with a clearer idea of the consequences.

What you’ll learn

  • How to explore complexity at different levels and understand the underlying dynamics of problems.
  • New methods of working collaboratively to implement change more successfully.
  • The common behaviours in complex systems, patterns to look out for, and how to mitigate them to achieve your goals.
  • The different mindsets and techniques that can be applied when approaching complex systems.
  • How to use online platforms, such as Mural and Kumu to support collaborative working across distributed teams.

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From £750.00 incl. UK VAT
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Who’s it for?

This online Systems Thinking Essentials course is for anyone who wants to quickly get up to speed with the basics of systems thinking. 

You may be new to innovation or a senior innovator who wants to expand your own innovation toolkit. We’ll ease you into the core theory of systems thinking and put it into practice through a set of carefully-chosen key methods that are well-proven and which you can easily embed in your projects and run with your stakeholders. 

The course covers not only the core theories and practice of systems thinking, but also provides insights into the key behaviours of systems that help us make sense of the outcomes of our actions. Why can incentivising employees to boost motivation have the opposite effect, while limiting the amount of work in progress for a team lead to more work getting done? Systems thinking helps answer these kinds of questions. 

Much of the world can be counter-intuitive and a better knowledge of how systems work can give us a new perspective on the seemingly unpredictable. Using systems thinking helps build an awareness of the bigger picture, making it an essential way of thinking for anyone wanting to create meaningful change within organisations and/or society as a whole. 

Day-by-day summary

Day 1:

Seeing systems 
Visualising systems to uncover the big picture 

In this session you will learn how to frame projects holistically, making sure all aspects and implications are considered before you embark on new innovations or implementing changes to parts within an existing system. You will then be able to visualise systems by bringing together diverse systems and making sense of complexity. 

Topics covered 

  • Course overview 
  • Introduction to Systems Thinking 
  • Applications of Systems Thinking 
  • Mapping systems 
  • System transformation 
  • Defining boundaries 

Day 2:

How systems work 
Exploring and selecting options for systemic change 

Building on the first workshop, day 2 will teach you how to understand system relationships and dynamics to get a better understanding of how they work in practice. This helps assess the consequences of different approaches to systemic change and leads to better informed decisions.  

Topics covered 

  • Patterns and structure 
  • Complexity and behaviour 
  • Desirable systems 
  • Conceptual models 

Day 3:

Acting in systems
Taking targeted action for impact 

To complete the course, you’ll learn how to develop and implement new projects, products, services, and initiatives with a clear idea of their potential impact(s). This session will leave you able to identify how and where to act in systems to make improvements, reduce risks, and anticipate consequences. 

Topics covered 

  • Leverage in systems 
  • Comparing systems 
  • Consequences and impact 
  • Mindsets and narratives 

Our live teaching approach

Expert coaching Reveal more
Learning from experienced design thinkers & interactive workshops.
Collaborative innovation Reveal more
Co-creating with others & exploring how to drive innovation within a team.
Networking opportunities Reveal more
Connecting with people from around the world & expanding personal networks.

The coaching team

Simon Gough

Associate Service Design Director

Craig Fallowfield-Tomkins

Service & Experience Director


Can I get a refund on UK VAT?

Customers outside of the UK may be able to claim a refund for UK VAT charged on our online courses, if the customer is resident overseas and attends the course from an overseas location.

If you feel that you should be refunded UK VAT on your purchase and haven’t heard from us, please get in touch.  

Please note, VAT is not refundable on in-person courses held in the UK as per HMRC UK legislation.

What is systems thinking?

Systems thinking describes mindsets and approaches that enable us to better see and understand how everything connects, and what this means for current problems and future ambitions. If you’re working in product and service design—or wanting to create meaningful change in an organisation or wider society—systems thinking offers new perspectives and practical tools that can help. 

We are all instinctively aware of the complex systems around us and how they sometimes behave in unexpected ways: often our actions, initiatives and innovations achieve the opposite of what we intended. Systems thinking can help explore and better anticipate consequences, helping reduce uncertainty and risk. 

If you want to learn more about systems shinking, you can listen to this podcast in which Simon Gough – one of our expert senior systems thinking facilitators – looks at the topic in depth. 

Will I get a systems thinking certification after completing the course?  

Yes, all graduates of our courses receive branded certificates from the Design Thinkers Academy London. As this course is taught online, we award systems thinking certificates via email in the form of a pdf. 

Systems thinking vs design thinking – what’s the difference? 

One of the ways we might distinguish systems thinking and design thinking is through mindset: systems thinking starts with systems, how they work, how things connect together and how we stretch ourselves to make sense in this complexity. Developing the perspectives and practical tools that help us engage with complexity means that we are better equipped to design the right thing, or even stop doing something that isn’t working. 

Design Thinking is a human-centred approach, often used to focus on the needs of users or customers; its application might lead to a new product or service. Understanding the wider systems around those users, customers, products, and services is important, but they’re not the focus. Design thinking helps us to understand people, develop empathy, be creative and learn to experiment. 

Brought together these approaches offer ways of thinking and working that improve our abilities to zoom in and out of problems, understand why things happen, see critical connections and extend the ways in which we can innovate. 

Why learn about systems thinking?  

Systems thinking is fast becoming a critical design skill as we deal with ever increasing complexity in our projects, search for ways to reduce the negative effects of our work and aim for more meaningful change through our actions. Contemporary issues such as climate change or fixing global supply chains in the wake of Covid can only be solved through systemic solutions. Understanding the ripple effects that any action causes through a complex web of interconnected systems is integral to identifying the right course of action. 

But it’s not just huge governmental and societal problems that benefit from taking a systems thinking-based approach. VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) are part of the current business landscape, and companies also exist within complex systems which need to be broken down to reveal the path forward. 

This is why we’ve seen a dramatic growth in the application of systems thinking in recent years, as it can help make such change happen. 

What equipment/software will I need?  


  • Desktop/laptop with an internet connection 
  • (Optional) Headphones 


  • Zoom 
  • Mural 
  • Kumu 
  • Google Docs 

*All software is free and can be downloaded in the session. 

English isn't my first language, does that matter?

This series of systems thinking workshops will be taught in English, so in order to get the most out of them it is necessary to have a basic level of spoken English.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Speak to one of our team now through our chatbot or get in touch.

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