When I did my Masters thesis on Systems Thinking, I was fortunate to have Professor Tom Ryan who heads the Executive MBA program at UCT as a sponsor and overseer. He flamed my passion for systems thinking in the early 1990’s while I was at AMA, a health administration company which was a subsidiary of Southern life, a listed JSE company.
Of course, I jumped at the chance to hear him speak recently at the UCT GSB research unit on Designing Sustainability into Management Practice: Implications for Management Curricula.
UCT’s business school has the aim of preparing managers for real world practice. Prof Ryan explained that they do this by designing and enabling learning experiences that will help managers to cope with the rapidly changing management landscape and the uncertainty and ambiguity that go with it.
I was particularly interested in Prof Ryan’s discussions on sustainability in management practice and the need to integrate it across management curricula. He explained that the current views of sustainability see the world as a set of embedded and interdependent ecological, social, economic and institutional systems. If we are to take sustainability seriously we need to address these systems both as a whole as well as individually.
For me what is of real interest and benefit is that all the concepts taught to us and practiced in life examples are now being brought into the main stream of learning. When I started to learn about systems thinking it was something out there, like science fiction; now it is becoming the core of many MBA and other post graduate qualifications.
I am constantly reminded how interconnected everything is. Everything we are involved in is part of some system, and everything we do affects that system, and other systems that will be affected by that system too.
The meeting was a great affirmation that my decision to do my masters in System Thinking instead of a general MBA was the right thing to do.