New Paradigm of Systems Thinking

New Systems Thinking Paradigm


University of Phoenix

New Systems Thinking Paradigm

There are three distinct systems thinking structures that have emerged over the years. These are the rational, natural, and open systems thinking paradigms (Scott & Davis, 2007). The best practices of successful businesses will include a systems thinking model of operation for the constantly connected workforce. As lifelong learners, we are aware that assimilated technologies may be antiquated by the time students’ graduate. The continuously changing and complex workplace makes it difficult to anticipate the future and even more difficult for employees and leaders to prepare for it.

The proposed new systems thinking paradigm focuses on communications and professional development for employees, not only at the leadership level, but across all genres. Systems thinking approaches have not kept pace with the changes in technology and the business environment. The proposed professional development systems thinking paradigm is ideal for employees to focus on learning specific technologies. Using professional development systems thinking to evaluate the corporate structure will provide the tools that allow organizations to cultivate employees and leaders who are successful in a global, dynamic, and connected environment.

Professional Development Systems Thinking

Developing and maintaining knowledgeable employees and leaders, leads to a competitive advantage for organizations competing in the dynamic, global, and networked environment of the 21st century (Alberts, Garstka, & Stein, 2000). This approach can ensure successful business operations and provide a systems thinking construct that enables researchers and management to view the status of an organization in real time. It also guarantees input from all involved entities to make adjustments rapidly when and where needed. The underlying assumption of this paper is that an organization exists to be profitable and not operate in a vacuum. A second assumption is the necessity for organizations to retain and develop its talent. If an organization loses one of its valued associates, it is projected to have lost over 11 percent of the workforce (Cisco, 2008). Therefore, the focus of the professional development model is goal oriented, people friendly, and an environmentally responsible construct. The professional development model, when properly developed and implemented will enable continuous analysis of all factors to ensure the company structure and culture meets these objectives.

Figure 1 – Model Framework

As depicted in Figure 1, the following cycle works with individuals and teams to design powerful learning experiences with clear expectations and systems that provide a balance of pressure and support. For this cycle to change and improve how employees learn and engage there has to be an organizational culture that promotes collaboration. Some guiding discussions to empower employees to work together to create new ideas, share strengths and challenges of innovations to improve practices and achieve the learning goals of the professional development system paradigm includes discussions on:


Goal Setting

Planning for Professional Learning

Models of desired practices

Safe Practice

Coaching and feedback

Reflection and revision

Analyzing the impact and determining next steps

Figure 2. Systems Thinking Architectures Focus Comparison

Figure 2. Conceptual diagram depicting the different focus of the three existing paradigms compared to the new proposed professional development systems thinking paradigm, which is intended to be goal specific and group oriented.

Professional Development Systems Thinking Implementation

Friendship Public Charter School operates 11 public charter school campuses housed on seven sites in the District of Columbia. Friendship campuses serve students from pre-school to the 12th grade (FPCS, 2016). Professional development is a powerful strategy, when used to impact the quality of instruction and promote the kind of systemic change that has a positive and permanent effect throughout an organization. It is essential that school-wide professional learning be planned by the entire faculty and engage in an improvement process that embeds schoolwide professional learning that benefits all faculty and administration. The process begins with an examination of data and from this analysis, employee improvement goals are set, prioritized, and learning agenda established. A timetable for learning and assessing is then generated. The learning agenda contributes to the culture of the organization, which is necessary to sustain continuous improvement as well as shared responsibility for organizational success. While the organization learns, discusses, applies, and assesses the impact of new strategies on schoolwide goals, more specific objectives are identified for grade levels and subject areas.

Within this vision for professional development, it is also essential that every employee be a member of a grade-level or subject-area learning team. As learning team members, teachers commit to sharing collective responsibility for the students in team members’ classes. Teams are provided several hours a week for participation in a carefully orchestrated cycle of continuous improvement.

Literature Gap and Ethical Considerations

According to Jackson (2009), there are gaps in many of the aspects of systems thinking. The author posits that SPL (scholar-practitioner-leader) research has not kept pace with the complexity of the emerging global, mobile, and connected business models. The rapid advances of the mobile computing explosion (Lundstrom, 2003) have added to the gap in systems thinking and the potential offered by a professional development environment (Alberts, et al., 2000). Evolving complex business models require additional research and application of systems thinking to better understand the business model and recommend improvements to the business structure or process (Woodside, 2006).

A major ethical concern in the construct is the unequal distribution of learning. The organization must guard against ostracizing staff who are of a lower grade, in favor of leadership and upper management. Administrative staff requires professional development and mentoring. Recognizing and respecting the skill and expertise of professional colleagues from other disciplines as well as from colleagues in their own disciplines is vital.


There are ramifications of not taking advantage of the advances in professional development. The application and implementation of a professional development systems thinking paradigm will require further research and test implementations to validate the concept. Professional development is often treated as an end, rather than a means to accomplish important goals. Emphasis on professional development conversation focuses more on credits, licenses, and salaries. The person served by professional development is the participant. To serve its rightful purpose, professional development must be driven by the needs of the employee, and its importance measured against whether those needs are meant.

Clawson (2006) believes the transformational approach involves both leaders and followers. A transformational leadership style that inspires a higher moral conduct to influence leaders and followers will be critical to building a prototype system. Organizations are shifting their thinking of professional development, therefore a professional development system thinking paradigm should be the next step in the evolution of organizational systems analysis.


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