Short courses


Systems Thinking

  • 7 hours
  • 1 day
  • 29 May 2024


This one-day online workshop introduces you to the benefits of using a systems thinking approach.

The course introduces the perspectives of holism, hierarchy, partitioning, life cycles and subjectivity

It also looks at how to apply systems thinking tools such as systems dynamics and soft systems methodology.

The course is run by the UCL Centre for Systems Engineering (UCLse) within UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics (Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL).

Who this course is for

This workshop is particularly relevant to anybody who is looking for new approaches to managing complexity in projects, organisations or businesses.

Course structure

The workshop will be held online, from 9am to around 4:30pm, with four blocks of interactive lectures and group exercises.

It's run regularly throughout the year.

Background to systems thinking

How many systems have you used today since getting up? Have you travelled? Made phone calls or sent emails? What about banking, shopping or going to the doctor's? 

We spend our lives interacting with all kinds of systems, which are often complex mixes of technology and people. How can we use them as effectively as possible? 

We can start by understanding them better, though this is often easier said than done - which is where systems thinking approaches come in.

Instead of looking at the parts of the system each in isolation (a reductionist approach) systems thinking helps us understand behaviour emergent from component interactions

Even in a simple system there can be a number of subtle cause-and-effects that we have to deal with if we want to change or improve things. Learning about systems thinking means learning about these behavioural properties and characteristics. 

It gives you a framework to help make sense of complexity - to analyse the system, understand it better and to make changes that improve its effectiveness.

Learning outcomes

This course will help you be able to:

  • understand and discuss the properties of systems
  • classify systems against a range of criteria
  • understand and discuss the principles of systems thinking
  • apply a number of techniques to understand systems in a holistic way

Further information

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Course team

Professor Michael Emes

Professor Michael Emes

Michael is Professor of Technology Management, Head of the Technology Management Group, at UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory and Director of the UCL Centre for Systems Engineering. His research interests include technology decision making, risk management and the causes of project failure. Before joining UCL, Michael was a strategy consultant working on projects in retail, e-commerce and transport. Michael is a Chartered Engineer, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Association for Project Management (APM), where he was founding Co-chair of the Systems Thinking Specific Interest Group (a joint initiative with INCOSE). He is Programme Leader for the MSc Technology Management, the MSc Transformation Leadership Level 7 Apprenticeship and the European Space Agency Project Manager Training course.

Matthew Whyndham

Matthew Whyndham

Matthew is an Assistant Lecturer in the Centre for Systems Engineering. He is a practising project manager and research scientist in UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics (MSSL). Most of his work has been in the instrumentation field (radiation detectors and data handling systems). He teaches topics in space technology, technology management and project management within these programmes, and is Programme Leader for UCL's APM-accredited project management course.

Benoît Pigneur

Benoît Pigneur

Benoit is a Lecturer in the Centre for Systems Engineering in Department of Space and Climate Physics (MSSL) at University College London. He is involved with teaching at MSc level as well as delivering industrial training. Some of his research interests include space systems, space mission design, systems architecting, system-of-systems, concurrent design, design management and design thinking. Before joining UCL, he worked in the space industry and also in academia in UK, Europe and USA. Through his career, Benoit has been involved with several space projects as well as teaching engineering courses at university. He holds a MSc in Space Mission Analysis and Design from the University of Glasgow and a MSc in Systems Engineering and Control from Purdue University. Benoit is a member of the International Council of Systems Engineering (INCOSE).

Course information last modified: 10 May 2024, 17:49