Free Resources, Tools & Projects

  • Funded by NSF, USDA, Cornell University and numerous others, our projects focus on bettering the human condition by understanding and bettering the human mind.
  • As an innovation lab, we are committed to developing tactile tools for Systems Thinkers, Mappers, and Leaders.
  • To every extent possible, we try to make as many of our findings freely accessible. We believe knowledge wants to be free or near-free. Browse some of the categories below and let us know if you have any questions.

RE:THINKING

A DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT THE POWER OF THINKING IN EDUCATION

Award-winning documentary film maker, Deborah Hoard and her crew, followed our work for nearly a decade in US schools and produced this amazing film on the amazing shift that can occur fors students, teachers and administrators when you focus on student thinking rather than merely memorizing or teaching to a test...

Connect with us on social media

Learn Systems Thinking Daily on Facebook

Learn Systems Thinking Daily on Our Blog

Or connect with us below on any of these social platforms:

Check Out Our Google Public Drive

We store MANY FREE resources in our Public Google Drive. Check it out!

We offer these resources for free to further systems thinking in the world. But please be sure to properly cite these materials if you use them in presentations or publications of any kind. That usually requires you to mention the source as Cabrera Research Lab or to cite the source (example: Cabrera, D. & Cabrera, L. (date) Name of Document. Cabrera Research Lab. Ithaca, NY.)

Join Us On YouTube

YouTube is the place to find videos of all kinds on our work in systems thinking, modeling and leadership and the systems sciences in general. Enjoy a few fan favorites below

TOOLS

As an innovation lab, we are committed to developing tactile tools for Systems Thinkers, Mappers, and Leaders. There is beauty and elegance in giving Systems Thinkers simple tools born of simple rules, that provide them the profound value of capturing and managing the complexity of their lives.


Visual Cognitive Language

Since its beginning, our lab has been centrally focused on the creating Universal Visual Cognitive Grammars (UVCG). Developing elegant standards for knowledge mapping of all kinds. Today, our Lab's work in UVCG is used around the world and in many applications. We will continue to pursue this focus area for the life of the Lab.

ThinkBlocks

We invented ThinkBlocks as a tactile tool for learning and doing systems thinking.

[From Wikipedia website] ThinkBlocks are a tactile manipulative educational tool invented by Derek Cabrera. Cabrera invented the blocks as a way to teach his graduate and doctoral students systems thinking at Cornell University. ThinkBlocks are designed to model concepts and build thinking skills based on the DSRP theory and method of thinking. This theory posits that four patterns, Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives, underlie all cognition, that they are universal to the process of structuring information, and that people can improve their thinking skills by learning to use the four elements explicitly. Students assign concepts to blocks by writing on them with dry-erase markers, and then associate them with other concepts by using the multi-nesting (multiple blocks inside of blocks), barbell (relational nodes), and looking glass (translucent) properties of the blocks. They were originally white, magnetic dodecahedra in three nested sizes, with one reflective side. In 2012, a new translucent cube-shaped version of the block was introduced. ThinkBlocks were a National Parenting Center Seal of Approval Winner in Fall 2008.

Universal Knowledge Structures in Software

Using DSRP as the underlying algorithm and knowledge architecture, our LAB has led efforts to develop prototype software programs such as MetaMap and our Senior Faculty, Dr. Derek Cabrera is the Co-founder of Plectica and inventor of the Plectica canvas software, the Plectica subtask.co software for project management, and the Plectica team.video software for team meetings.

Cortical Homunculus

There are more neurons connecting your brain to your hands and eyes than all the other part of your body combined. This is why so much of our research focuses on tactile and visual tools and technologies. As part of this effort, we made the cortical homunculus available in a 3D printed model. Check out a video about "Cortex Man."

Culture Building Graph

Our Culture Building Graph (CBG) is a powerful model and tool for developing culture and our mathematical treatment of the distinctions and relationships between culture, individual learning, organizational learning, and mental models (even for non mathematicians) provides the clarity and simple rules by which cultural change is possible.

ThinkQuery

Thinkquiry is the term we use for thinking differently about how we ask questions from a systems thinking approach. What’s different about Thinkquiry is the underlying logic of DSRP which is multivalent.

Traditional question logic is born of Socratic Logic (which is bivalent logic) and typically employs such rubrics as the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why). DSRP logic expands on this bivalent logic, which means that these kinds of questions can still be asked, but we are encouraged to penetrate deeper into our topic and ask deeper questions.

Mapping the K-12 Standards

We wanted to see if the DSRP visual language could visually map the entire K-12 Curriculum Standards. It can. We did!

Systems Thinking Diagnostics

We developed the first valid diagnostic of its kind for systems thinking and metacognition: the Systems Thinking and Metacognition Indicator (STMI).

PROJECTS

We look for projects that bridge our scientific research with real-world, practical, everyday experience. We work with excellent teams of excellent people. We don't just think the theories, we build real stuff that makes lives better and increases human potential and organizational effectiveness. We receive project support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Cornell University, National Institute's of Health (NIH), Center for Disease Control (CDC), as well as self-funded and private funded projects.

Contact us for information or resources on any of these projects.

What is Systems Thinking?

Since its beginning, our lab has been centrally focused on defining Systems Thinking as a theoretical construct and a practical skill as well as shifting the paradigm in the field itself. We are happy to report that we have had success in all three areas and DSRP is now widely accepted as the universal definition of systems thinking.

Redesigning the Classroom

Our Lab has works with teachers and administrators to develop new classroom designs based on Systems thinking and pedagogical principles. See the files here.

Systemic STEM Learning

With the Pennsylvania Department of Education, we developed a successful stand-alone, afterschool program in STEM learning. The results were impressive. Today, this program has become integrated into various school districts. [link)

ThinkWater

ThinkWater is a national campaign supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people of all backgrounds and ages think and care deeply about water. It does so by applying systems thinking to existing water education and research efforts and by actively engaging people in a new way around water issues. Our Mission-Vision is to Engage, Educate and Empower a world of Systems Thinkers to solve wicked water problems.

Systems Thinking in the Military

In our work with numerous military organizations, but especially the US Military Academy at West Point, we have developed numerous applications and models (especially in Systems Engineering and Engineering Leadership) with the military in mind.

Public Understanding Campaigns

Using translational research methods developed in our Lab, we have developed numerous public understanding campaigns for Systems Thinking, Systems Mapping, Systems Leadership, and Metacognition. The products of these campaigns include innovative posters, card sets, documents, a Cortical Homunculus figurine, a rap song and video, a spoken word video, a mini-documentary, a documentary film, 3 TED talks, 3 books, a children's book, and numerous other freely available resources

Santa Fe Institute's Curricula in Complexity: Network Theory

A video series for the Curricula in Complexity and Network Theory developed with the Santa Fe Institute (SFI)

Routledge Handbook of Systems Thinking

Drs. Derek and Laura Cabrera, along with Systems Thinking historian extraordinaire, Gerald Midgley, are the editors of co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Systems Thinking (forthcoming 2021)

Systems Thinking, Modeling, and Leadership Certificate Program (STML)

Systems Thinking on LinkedIn (online training)

Systems Thinking Certificate from eCornell (online training)

TED Talks

Take a look at our three TED Talks

National Standards for Thinking

Our Lab has worked with teachers and administrators to develop National Standards for Thinking (link) and State Standards for Thinking (link).

What is Culture?

Since its beginning, our lab has been focused on defining organizational culture as a theoretical construct and developing tools and models to help leaders change culture purposefully and strategically. Our Culture Building Graph (CBG) is a powerful model and tool for developing culture and our mathematical treatment of the distinctions and relationships between culture, individual learning, organizational learning, and mental models (even for non mathematicians) provides the clarity and simple rules by which cultural change is possible.

Two US Patents

We have received two US patents for our work in cognitive and knowledge architectures

Knowledge Creation and Research Methods

Our Knowledge-to-Method-Matching-Matrix (KMMM) is a powerful theoretical model we developed to help researchers understand and apply the appropriate research methods based on the condition of the knowledge being explored.

Organizational Reification

Since its inception, our Lab has been centrally focused on discovering new ways and identifying existing examples and best practices for organizational reification (especially of culture). Organizational reifications are powerful touchstones that drive culture.

Systems Thinking Symposia

We have hosted numerous Systems Thinking Symposium throughout the years. Stay tuned for more...

Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)

Since its inception, our Lab has been centrally focused on utilizing a CAS methodology in systems thinking and organizational design (systems leadership). DSRP and VMCL, among others, are good examples of how CAS principles can be used methodologically in theory creation. We are currently working on CAS applications in policy analysis of complex systems where recommendations are concerned.

Tactile Manipulation

Since its inception, our Lab has been centrally focused on tactile manipulation as an applied research field. We continue to develop tools and technologies that utilize this research.

Universal Functions of Organization

Since its inception, our Lab has been centrally focused discovering the universal functions of organizations and making these more accessible to organizational leaders. Our VMCL model is now commonplace among the Silicon Valley's hottest companies and in the Fortune 100 to 1000, as well as NGOs and government organizations and schools.

Systems Evaluation (Logic Modeling)

We are leading the way in developing new systemic alternatives to logic modeling. Our work in this area has been sponsored by NSF, USDA, and others.

Galapagos 2030

Our newest project (2020) is to look at the unique features of the Galapagos as a System and to make policy recommendations for sustainable management of this globally important World Heritage Site.

What is Systems Engineering?

Using our tried and true methods and techniques, and with partners at USMA and Cornell, we are making headway in defining Systems Engineering and Engineering Leadership as a theoretical construct and a practical skill as well as shifting the paradigm in the field itself.

Graduate Course: Systems Thinking and Modeling

Using translational research and androgogical methods, we've developed powerful coursework at the undergraduate and graduate level in systems thinking and modeling. If you are a university professor who wants to teach systems thinking, we are happy to share some of what we've learned.

Graduate Course: Systems Leadership, Organizational Design, and Change

Using translational research and androgogical methods, we've developed powerful coursework at the undergraduate and graduate level in systems leadership, organizational design, and change. If you are a university professor who wants to teach systems thinking, we are happy to share some of what we've learned.