systems thinking

Systems thinking isn’t new, biologist Ludwig von Bertalanfy started to conceive his General Systems Theory in the early 20th century. Nowadays it is becoming fundamental subject in every profession in order to search for new ways for a more efficient and sustainable future. Systems Thinking takes inspiration from natural systems and how everything is interacting, interdependent and in constant change.

You may have recently heard words like ‘complexity’, ‘resilience’ and ‘emergence’ all of them relate closely to Systems Theory.

Since 2008 I have worked in developing a methodology of Systems Thinking for systems, product and service design. I have applied it in:


2008-2011 Tecnologico de Monterrey campus Queretaro, 8th semester Industrial Design undergraduate level.

During that time 30 projects were developed, with some very exciting results, here you can downoad the Systems Thinking projects portfolio (2.2Mb English only).

The 2008 'Waste recovering system for Benito Juarez borough in Mexico City' was finalist at the INDEX Design Award 2009.

The workshop has been also organised in Madrid, Spain, in four different occasions by:

Istituto Europeo di Design, 2014
The Shed Coworking, 2014
Istituto Europeo di Design, 2013
Freeland Coworking and Como regaderas, 2012

The structure of the workshop covers these themes:

1 .- Introduction - Systems Thinking, more than a problem solving method, is a habit.

  • The origins “web of life”
  • Exponential growth and consumption
  • Science and knowledge creation
  • General Systems Theory
  • Complex and complicated
  • Simplicity behind complexity

2.- Examples of previous projects.

3.- Mapping the system (complexity visualisation 2D, 3D and 4D).

  • Defining boundaries
  • Entities
  • Relations
  • Attributes

4.- User Centred Design.

  • Ethnografic research tools
  • Research protocol design
  • Asking the experts (the designer as information synthesiser)

5.- Leverage Points.

  • 12 intervention points in systems, Donella Meadows for the non-expert
  • Intervention hypothesis

6.- Creativity and building certainty.

  • Intervention selection
  • Connections between solutions (a complex problem rarely has a single solution)
  • Creativity techniques (mental maps, forced relations, etc.)
  • Design (strategies, products, services, systems or all of them)
  • Testing your ideas (experiment design, prototypes, simulators, mock-ups, etc.)

7.- Business.

  • Economic flux structure (go where there is no flow!)
  • Value chain
  • Business model innovation
  • Circular Economy

We are working on videos and other material that will be shared soon, please return to check updates or contact me at: contact(at)vgmtheory(dot)com