Abstract

The world faces significant problems of high complexity. The potential of knowledge, methods and tools used in design education and practice are useful for the development of sustainable solutions. Sustainable design is regarded in this paper as the integration of multiple competencies in order to generate and implement creative interventions that trigger positive changes in complex socio-technical systems. In this paper, a multidisciplinary case study is created for experimentation on the way in which different student groups approach complex problems, the type and level of thinking used, and the evaluation of the adequateness of their proposals by experts. The groups analysed encompass eighty subjects enrolled in four different undergraduate and graduate programs. In the experimental groups, the lecturers integrated a number of methods and tools that target purposeful change in complex adaptative systems. In the control courses, the lecturers applied the more traditional methods and tools that are customary of their disciplines, without explicit linkage to complexity and systemic change. Students participated voluntarily in a team activity dealing with the pervasive and complex problem of garbage disposal and transportation in large urban settlements. The resulting proposals provide valuable insights, for example regarding the way in which students analyse the situation, the type and level of change that their proposals imply, and the scope and depth of their causal analysis. This study demonstrates that the set of methods and tools currently used in some of our courses are valuable tools for promoting systemic thinking in our students. Evidence is also provided to suggest that regarding systemic reasoning, the distinctions between disciplinary and multidisciplinary teamwork may be weaker than what was expected. Furthermore, diagnosing systemic thinking in a team or a person would remain largely irrelevant if this type of reasoning failed to produce more creative and higher quality responses. Our study confirms the premise that teams with high-order systemic thinking consistently yield high-quality and original solutions.

Keywords:

Systemic Thinking, Design Education, Sustainable Design, Complex Systems, Creativity

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Jul 7th, 12:00 AM

On the Impact of Systemic Thinking in Sustainable Design

The world faces significant problems of high complexity. The potential of knowledge, methods and tools used in design education and practice are useful for the development of sustainable solutions. Sustainable design is regarded in this paper as the integration of multiple competencies in order to generate and implement creative interventions that trigger positive changes in complex socio-technical systems. In this paper, a multidisciplinary case study is created for experimentation on the way in which different student groups approach complex problems, the type and level of thinking used, and the evaluation of the adequateness of their proposals by experts. The groups analysed encompass eighty subjects enrolled in four different undergraduate and graduate programs. In the experimental groups, the lecturers integrated a number of methods and tools that target purposeful change in complex adaptative systems. In the control courses, the lecturers applied the more traditional methods and tools that are customary of their disciplines, without explicit linkage to complexity and systemic change. Students participated voluntarily in a team activity dealing with the pervasive and complex problem of garbage disposal and transportation in large urban settlements. The resulting proposals provide valuable insights, for example regarding the way in which students analyse the situation, the type and level of change that their proposals imply, and the scope and depth of their causal analysis. This study demonstrates that the set of methods and tools currently used in some of our courses are valuable tools for promoting systemic thinking in our students. Evidence is also provided to suggest that regarding systemic reasoning, the distinctions between disciplinary and multidisciplinary teamwork may be weaker than what was expected. Furthermore, diagnosing systemic thinking in a team or a person would remain largely irrelevant if this type of reasoning failed to produce more creative and higher quality responses. Our study confirms the premise that teams with high-order systemic thinking consistently yield high-quality and original solutions.

 

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