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Systems Thinking: Big Picture, Win-Win Solutions

Published on May 4, 2021

Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected. Systems thinking is a holistic method that helps determine collective actions to solve complex issues by focusing on the interactions of all elements within a system. While our individual efforts can seem like a drop in the bucket, by identifying where we are within a system, we can all intervene in powerful ways.

In this week’s Innovation Hour, we challenge you to think about where you fit within community-wide or global systems and how your actions can help – or hinder – progress in these systems.

What’s Innovation Hour?

Sometimes, it can be easy to fall into a comfortable box at work – you focus on just your work and stay only inside your bubble (ex. HR, tech, research, client outreach, etc.). Obviously, focusing on your work is by no means a bad thing. But when you only think and communicate only on topics within your bubble 40 hours a week, 50 out of 52 weeks a year, it can really stifle a person’s curiosity and creativity.

So we started hosting Innovation Hour, a bi-weekly hour dedicated to our entire team exploring new topics, exercising our innovation muscles, and widening our perspectives. We’ve covered a wide scope of topics: a TED Talk on creative confidence, climate change, living wage, and more. Our Talent, Culture, and Performance Strategy was actually born during an Innovation Hour session!

As we’ve shared what Innovation Hour is with our friends and clients, we’ve been met with resounding excitement and interest. To help you host your own Innovation Hour with your teams, we’ll be sharing prompts and resources to help kick off discussions. We can’t wait to hear where your team’s creativity and passion takes you!

Download the full high-resolution pdf

Innovation Hour: Scenario

As a team, explore a case study (linked below) on how systems thinking created a win-win solution for local communities and endangered orangutans: paying for healthcare with trees.

US NGO Health in Harmony and Indonesian non-profit Alam Sehat Lestari’s (ASRI) partnership is a great example of problem solving using Systems thinking. Originally starting as a healthcare intervention for the people in West Kalimantan, Borneo, the project transformed into a community-led rainforest conservation initiative. These two organizations observed that community members paid for healthcare by tapping into the illegal yet lucrative logging industry that imposed a significant threat on the Orangutan population. To address this issue, the clinic near the national park changed the way that patients paid for treatment to also contribute to reforestation efforts.

After reading the case study, here are some questions to help you and your team start a discussion on where you fit within various systems and how your actions can help – or hinder – progress:

  • What community-wide or global systems are we part of in our work?
  • Do we influence these systems or do these systems influence us? How?
  • What are our spheres of influence and assets within these systems?
  • If we could shape the way that these systems worked, what might that do for our mission or community?

Innovation Hour: Tools

To kickstart your team’s ideation session, read this powerful case study.

Want to share this Innovation Hour with your team? Download our free interactive high-resolution card with all the session info on it! Interact with the embedded links and resources within the card.

Innovation Hour: Extra reading

Enjoying this week’s topic and want to dive in deeper? Here are some other articles we found interesting and were inspired by:

What’s System Thinking?


Samantha Lee
Client Solutions in Communications and Content

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