An article this week in The New York Times discusses the attributes of design thinking being used in some recently redesigned MBA programs vs. the business function (marketing, finance, accounting) approach traditional MBA programs are based on. From the context of the article is sounds like “design thinking” is a variety of thought similar to Systems Thinking. Villanova’s executive MBA program is designed around the central tenets of Systems Thinking. System and Design thinking both teach critical and creative thinking skills as way of solving problems, as opposed to functional approaches to dissecting a problem.
I’m a graduate of Villanova’s EMBA, and Systems Thinking was a clear distinguishing characteristic of the program. And THE reason I chose Villanova over other programs like Drexel, Univ. of DE and Temple. Systems Thinking gave the whole school experience a different vibe, and by the end of the 21 months had shifted how I approach situations.
System’s Thinking was a revelation in how to stop chopping a problem into ever smaller components and instead start looking at the bigger picture in which the problem sits. Context is critical. Rather than drilling into a problem, Systems Thinkers look at all the external elements touching a problem. Then examine the motivating factors each of those elements has, how they are impacted, and how they could be impacted. That gives you a sense of how a situation developed, and the influencers that need impacted to resolve it in a lasting way. Let’s face it, most problems really need behavior change to be effective over the long-term, otherwise you get a band-aid.
It is good to know that other universities are connecting with a new different more contextual approach. And to know the results are resonating with students and the problems they take on. Results are the only real measure, and it sounds like the results are impressive. With more people looking at systemic relationships rather than functional fixes, we can focus on real innovation.