The global leader in systems thinking research, innovation, assessment, training, and impact.

    Born at Cornell University, our research lab studies the problem that underlies all problems: thinking. We do basic and applied research, design innovative tools and technologies, and facilitate public understanding in four areas: Systems Thinking (cognitive complexity), Systems Mapping (visual complexity), Systems Leadership (organizational complexity), and Systems Science (material complexity).

    We study complexity in order to better understand how to align mental models with real-world systems to decrease biases, make better decisions, solve wicked problems, and 'get it right' more often.

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    System 3 Fast More Accurate System 1 Fast Prone to errorbias System 2 Slow More accurate (1)

    Thinking fast and wrong or slow and right aren't your only options...

    Think Fast and Right

    Your brain evolved two thinking modes: a fast one that is biased and wrong a lot and a more accurate one that is slow. But, research shows that we can choose a third option through metacognition and practice. Being aware of and practicing daily ("daily reps") the four DSRP* cognitive structures can get you in the habit of thinking fast and right, much like an athlete or soldier trains for fast, autonomic responses in volatile, uncertain, complex, and unpredictable situations.  Learn and practice DSRP* and you'll think fast and get it right more often. Whether you want to increase your personal or professional skills or develop your team of high performers, learning and practicing these four simple rules will transform thinking across all domains. In fact, the World Economic Forum's “Future of Jobs Report” lists the Top 10 skills employers will demand in the global economy. DSRP* Thinking is foundational to these ten forms of thinking skills.  

    1. Analytical thinking and innovation
    2. Active learning and learning strategies
    3. Creativity, originality, and initiative
    4. Technology design and programming
    5. Critical thinking and analysis
    6. Complex problem-solving
    7. Leadership and social influence
    8. Emotional intelligence
    9. Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation
    10. Systems analysis and evaluation

    *DSRP stands for Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, Perspectives. They are the four simple rules that underlie cognitive complexity (a.k.a., systems thinking).

    Got 12 minutes? Learn DSRP

    Want to be a better Systems Thinker?

    You can learn the basics of DSRP in minutes and practice them for a lifetime. Watch this award-winning, short-film on DSRP and then start to ask the five questions (below) bout any topic, problem, or system.

    Empirical research shows—with high statistical significance—that asking DSRP questions increases cognitive complexity. There are many more advanced questions from DSRP, but these are the best ones to get started doing systems thinking.

    Research shows that asking these 5 "DSRP" questions of an idea, issue, or concept increases systems thinking

    What things am I choosing to see and not see? (D)

    How are these things organized into part-whole groups? (S)

    How are these things related (and not related)? (R)

    Do these relationships have parts? (RDS)

    From what or whose perspective? (P)

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    ST Step by Step v2

    Want to go deeper into Systems Thinking? Choose your own path or take our recommended path...

    Learn Systems Thinking Step by Step

    We want to make learning scientifically-valid Systems Thinking straight forward and fun. After teaching these ideas to hundreds of thousands of students, we know that this five-step process is efficient and effective in creating GREAT systems thinkers. Best of all, you will be able to start applying what you learn to your most pressing challenges on Day 1.
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    The world's largest systems thinking conference

    2022 International Systems Thinking Conference at Cornell University

    The 2022 International Cornell University Systems Thinking Conference was May 12-13 (online). This year's theme was “Any Person, Any System” which conveys that systems thinking is for everyone (novices and experts) and is applied to a range of physical, natural, social, technical, and policy systems. This year's conference drew from over 100 countries and 49 US States and was the largest systems thinking conference in the world.
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    Research. Innovation. Public Understanding.

    About Our Lab and Founding Faculty

    Our Vision is 7 Billion Systems Thinkers. We focus on theoretical, basic, and applied research applicable to everyday lives. We look for projects that bridge our scientific research with real-world, practical, everyday experience. We work with excellent teams of excellent people. We follow the science. We don't just think the theories, we execute the empirical research, and we innovate, invent, and design tools that make lives better and increase human potential and organizational effectiveness.
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    More...
    Derek Cabrera

    Derek Cabrera, PhD

    An internationally known author and systems scientist and serves on the faculty of Cornell University and the Board of Advisors DSE at the US Military Academy at West Point...

    Derek's Bio
    Laura Cabrera

    Laura Cabrera, PhD

    An expert in translational research methods and systems thinking, Laura serves as faculty of Cornell University where she teaches systems thinking, mapping, and leadership... 

    Laura's Bio
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    We do science  (basic and applied research).

    Research Lab

    We push the cutting-edge of science in the area of systems thinking (cognitive complexity) and complex adaptive systems (CAS). Our research and publications are known worldwide. With research funded by both private and public funding like NSF, USDA, and Cornell, we try to make our our work as free and accessible as possible. We believe knowledge wants to be free.
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    We invent stuff based on the science.

    Innovation Lab

    As a design and innovation lab, we know that systems thinkers need valid quantifiable testing and technical tools and technologies to do their work. We are committed to developing practical and powerful tools for Systems Thinkers. With two US patents, an NSF Innovation Grant, the only validated systems thinking assessment, mapping software, 3-D whiteboard blocks and more, we're just getting started.
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    We make science accessible to the public.

    Impact Lab

    We translate the science for public understanding. The idea that science is supported by citizens is in our DNA. We focus on real-world impact. We use translational research techniques to develop easy-to-understand books, keynotes, trainings, online courses, intensive certification, and free resources and work with trusted partners like LinkedIn Learning and Cornell University to make them accessible to millions of people worldwide.

    Our research impacts individuals and organizations

    The Impact of Our Work is Diverse and Global

    We're proud that the value of our research spans the public and private and for-profit and nonprofit sectors. That our work effects individuals and organizations from international NGOs to small, rural schools to the executive suite of the Fortune 100. From social-change initiatives to university research labs to government agencies to tech startups to Blue Chips to Silicon Valley's unicorns... It is a diverse and global group, but here are few of the amazing folks we are proud to work with...
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