2012/11/07 09:10 John Pourdehnad, “Developing a System Thinking Mindset with a Design Thinking Approach in Creating Transformational Enterprise Solutions from Smart Integration of Latest technologies”

Cascon 2012 in Markham, ON, Canada: Plenary talk by @jp2consult, John Pourdehnad, U. of Pennsylvania

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the by David Ing.

Introduction by Joanna Ng

Realization that software development requires culture change, for users

John Pourdehnad

  • Associate Director of Training and Consulting Services at the School of Arts and Sciences and adjunct Professor of Systems and Design Thinking at The University of Pennsylvania

Forgiveness for two things

  • Wearing tie, soft systems person amongst hard systems people
  • Tired, blame Mitt Romney, it would have been better if he had conceded at 10 p.m.

Behind every decision is a thought

  • Quality of decision will trace back to quality of thinking
  • System of decision making

Literature, around management and decision making is all about thinking: lateral, hybrid, systems, design

  • Design Institute at Stanford promoting pivot thinking, think that it helps with being more innovative

What’s behind the enthusiasm behind developing all of these ways of thinking?

  • 1. Albert Einstein: we can’t solve problems by using the same type of thinking we used when we created them
  • Russ Ackoff would start his lectures with Albert Einstein quote: executives would nod their heads, but none would know the implications

2. T3E, Type III errors, solving the wrong problems

  • Class of problems not amendable to mathematical formulation

3. Innovation:  today, we don’t need innovation in products or services

  • In order to be innovative, have to start thinking out of the box, which requires changing thinking

4.  Problem solving strategies

  • Instead of resolving the problem, dissolve the problem

5. Complexity

  • Defined, in interactive or dynamic complexity, a myriad of relationships, everything in flux
  • Difficult to model, know what’s going
  • Dave Snowden Cynefin model: could be simple, chaotic, complex or complicated context
  • Context for decision-making today is diverse
  • Look around situation awareness, developed for U.S. airforce, now being used in healthcare, in emergency room
  • Most human errors is because the human being doesn’t know what situations in which they’re operating
  • Simple:  The domain of benchmarking, observing from others, bringing back
  • Complicated:  Solution is in the domain of expertise
  • Complexity:  The solution is in the domain of emergence, need to bring the requisite minds to bring people together for a solution
  • Chaotic:  The domain of good response, don’t have to wait and see patterns

Approach of Barack Obama not quite right, instead of saying that we know what to do isn’t right

One size does not fit all

Took framework from Snowden, and looked under conditions of simple, complicated, complex and chaotic, asked about competencies required

Simple and complicated versus complex and chaotic

Management, versus leadership that can navigate through

  • Book:  Qantas 32, flight engine exploded, fragments went into the other subsystems of plane, flight should have crashed, but landed safely, attributed to quality of pilots, of which was 2 plus other who were along for the ride

Predict and forecast, versus anticipating

  • Keep it simple stupid, becomes to the detriment in complex and chaotic
  • Systems thinking can help, as can deal with the interconnected

Paying detail to small details, versus paying attention to relationships

Rational thinking, versus intuitive thinking

  • When we can’t create mathematical models, have people who can create mental models

Most adult training is in skills, should augment with cognitive abilities

Problem solving has been focus in traditional business schools with analytical thinking as inductive and deductive logic, need to change to dissolve problems with design thinking through abductive logic

  • Ph.D. and architects given the same problem
  • Ph.D. analyzed for some time, but architects using design thinking solve it in no time
  • Roger Martin:  abductive logic as what should be or can be

Need this to get workforce to deal with dynamic complexity

Peter Senge, Fifth Discipline, popularized systems thinking

  • Look through systems:  biological systems, systemic properties
  • Can’t, through reductionistic approach, analyze that property to understand parts separately

In biological systems, parts are purposive, purpose was given

  • Heart can’t want to be a kidney
  • In a social system, parts are purposeful, capable of exhibiting choice, making dealing with social systems difficult
  • Not deterministic, mechanistic and predictable
  • Don’t know next time I’m at the conference if Joanne will treat me the same

What is a system?

  • Elements within a system are interrelated
  • Has implications on how you design the system
  • Have to demonstrate that the part will increase the performance of the system as a whole
  • Have to shift the method of inquiry

Changes in method of inquiry

  • From analytic thinking to systems thinking
  • Need both analytic thinking, but also synthetic thinking
  • A good systems thinker has to be able to create a feasible whole out of seemingly infeasible parts
  • Take parts, make win win for both size

From analysis, need synthesis

  • Started as mechanical engineer, started with reductionism
  • With systems thinking, start with expansionism, what is the containing system

Mechanical systems may explain through cause and effect, but social systems are producer-product

  • Outcome as produced by a number of things
  • Never look for one cause
  • First place to look is in the containing system
  • Instead of blaming the person, look at the conditions under which those decisions were made
  • Hospital in Baltimore, parking lot attendee would have an expression as to why are you here, but then talking to executive, they’re not paying attention
  • Compare to Southwest Airlines, they have flight attendants that always smile
  • People who recruit cabin attendants have to see that smiling is a natural act
  • Calling a doctor to tell going to Canada, nurse takes record, doctor will call back in 5 to 7 days, doctor never gets message

In analytical thinking, embark on research, but in systems thinking, use design, even to understand what the consumer want

  • Get consumer to help with design

When you change mindset, see things differently (Vincent Barabba, Decision Loom)

  • Silos with deep knowledge
  • Systems model can be drawn as a network of nodes
  • Silos have deep functional knowledge
  • Challenge: how to keep deep functional knowledge, and get breadth of organizational knowledge

Design thinking, recognition that designers are quick to identify designs that are superior to solve problems

  • In both systems thinking and design thinking, have different methods
  • Most famous company is Ideo, working with Stanford and D-Institute
  • Ideo has deep dive
  • Rotman has integrative thinking
  • Russ Ackoff had idealized design

Most important, recognition is the role of users

  • Designing FOR users
  • Designing WITH users, which is what Ideo does, ethnographic, e.g. going to hospital and spending 3 days looking at ceiling
  • Designing BY users:  putting users in the design situation, they’ll tell you value
  • Ackoff participated in interior design of Boeing 787:  big windows

Idealized design

  • A methodology that involves the stakeholder of the system, in cocreation of that system

New York Times article on George Washington bridge

  • In 1970s, problem was so many head-on collisions
  • 4 players in situation:  Port Authority who owned; policy and emergency services; Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre is close
  • Reductionistic was first to try to independently reduce fatality
  • Port Authority was painting yellow lines, not much improvement
  • Police writing fines on drivers crossing lines, not much result
  • Emergency services with better ambulances and communications equipment
  • Hospital and emergence room measuring by number of lines save
  • Finally, did a system redesign:  continuous improvement not working
  • Decided to replace solid yellow pained lines with solid concrete boundaries
  • Engage in reduction of accidents that than finding a better way to respond to accidents
  • Seems so obvious

Intentional integration of systems mindset and design thinking in the context of this conference

  • Should look at design thinking
  • Designs have unintended consequences, e.g. pollution from car


With users of software, designing FOR, WITH, who to differentiate between purchasers and users

  • Customers versus consumers
  • Customers pay for service, but may not be consumer
  • Customers need feedback
  • Consumer use
  • In systems, draw, and see concentric circles
  • Right now, am designing the Professional Liberal Arts program, containing whole is in Arts and Science, which is in the containing U. of Pennsylvania, look at impacts
  • Start with expanding scope
  • If going to use third generation design, bring consumers into the design mode
  • Have done this with products, services
  • All men are designers
  • In projects, the best designs came from the people with whom there were least expectations
  • e.g. hospital janitorial services, wanted to bring in janitors, two vps asked if really wanted janitors, said yes, they weren’t going to be uncomfortable; then best design came from 9 janitors

Innovation and linked data, benefit of interaction with other parts of systems, the system is so large, with client that aren’t there yet.  How to think about a system that is large, with parts that aren’t identified

  • Crowdsourcing:  time to appeal to the wisdom of a larger crowd
  • Two projects with 362 and 260 people, used technology
  • Some work with Accenture, using Cisco technology, could run design sessions virtually
  • The most difficult part will be at the beginning
  • When talking about a system, need to draw a boundary, specify components, which containing systems
  • When looking at a system, interested in systemic policies
  • Howard Schultz, Starbucks, success of operation when coffee in blind tests ranks low, he said not selling coffee, selling the Starbucks experience, which emerges out of the interaction of 3 P’s:  people, product, place
  • Hospital, measure as quality of care they give? Showed that had people who had high quality care that didn’t want to go back to the hospital, one woman said had MRI but were so rude; were given the best room but then 2 hours later staff came in and said that they needed the equipment in the room, thinking that it was going to some bigwig donor

Joanna Ng:  Software development shifting towards verticals, which requires systems thinking

  • We think silos, e.g. mobile is mobile
  • But selling to silos, customers ask huh, did you give me the car in parts
  • When individuals come from acquisitions, often think in silos, as acquired to fill a technology gap
  • But then need to get across technology silos, as will get frustrated as people don’t talk to each other
  • From research to design to marketing to business decisions in the product team, there are more silos
  • Not because one company is better than another, it’s that organizational boundaries can be broken through with thinking strategies
  • At the very beginning of introducing the concept, towards walking the talk

#design-thinking, #pourdehnad, #systems-thinking