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MIT SDM conference centers on systems thinking for emerging, evolving, established leaders

Jaume Plensa's "Alchemist" sits across Massachusetts Avenue facing MIT's main entrance.

MIT alumni from NASA, Intuitive Surgical, MIT Hacking Medicine, the U.S. Air Force, Global Project Design, and others will speak.

The MIT System Design and Management (SDM) program’s annual Conference on Systems Thinking for Contemporary Challenges provides practical information for technical professionals on how to apply systems thinking to their most complex and pressing challenges. Each year’s event focuses on a single area, such as big data, healthcare, energy, finance, sustainability, or services. The theme for the Oct. 8 conference is systems thinking for emerging, evolving, and established leaders. Special pre-conference back-to-the-classroom sessions on the latest research in systems thinking will be held on the afternoon of Oct. 7. Please note that online registration is closed, but onsite registration will be offered on a space-available basis.

“Systems thinking is increasingly a competitive imperative for leaders at all stages of their careers,” says Joan S. Rubin SM '93 MBA '93, SDM industry codirector and conference convener. “Not only must they understand how to apply systems thinking to address complex challenges, but their companies must be able to apply this approach to develop the systems-based thinkers that will become their future leaders.”

To help organizations succeed, the conference will focus on best practices for leaders at all levels. Speakers will include emerging, evolving, and established leaders (many of whom are MIT and MIT SDM alumni) from a range of industry and government sectors. Companies and organizations represented include Intuitive Surgical, The MITRE Corporation, NASA, MIT Hacking Medicine, the U.S. Air Force, Endeavour Partners, Global Project Design, and more. Speakers will discuss:

  • How to use systems thinking to align and lead functionally and geographically dispersed teams that are tackling complex challenges;
  • Ways to monitor progress and results;
  • Benefits achieved, lessons learned, and next steps for developing leadership within organizations and individuals; and
  • How systems thinking has advanced their organization’s objectives and benefited their personal careers.

In addition, Matthew S. Kressy, director of SDM’s recently established Integrated Design & Management (IDM) track, will give a brief overview of this new offering, which will admit its first cohort in 2015.

The conference will include ample time for question-and-answer sessions following presentations as well as for networking with fellow attendees at a special reception that will take place immediately following the formal event. Attendees are also invited to the SDM Information Evening scheduled after the conference to learn more about SDM and IDM. Details can be found at sdm.mit.edu.

This year, SDM will offer preconference back-to-the-classroom sessions delivered by two of SDM’s best and brightest faculty members. This event, slated for the afternoon of Oct. 7, will include:

  • "What is Systems Thinking and Why Is It Important?" presented by Qi Van Eikema Hommes, lecturer in MIT's Engineering Systems Division and senior staff engineer at Volpe National Transportation Systems Center; and
  • "A New Era in Project Management: Viewing Projects as Systems," presented by Bryan R Moser, lecturer in MIT's System Design and Management, researcher in the Design Engineering Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, and president and CEO of Global Product Design.

For details, please visit sdm.mit.edu or contact Joan S. Rubin, SDM industry co-director.


Topics: Systems design, Leadership, School of Engineering, Sloan School of Management, System Design and Management, Special events and guest speakers

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