Cultivating Systemic Thinking in the Next Generation of Business Leaders

J. B. Atwater
V. R. Kannan, Utah State University
A. A. Stephens

(Finalist, 2008 ‘Best Paper’ Award, Academy of Management Journal of Learning and Education)


In response to criticism that they do not train students to be effective decision makers, many business schools have attempted to modify their graduate management programs. We suggest that a primary ingredient missing from these attempts is a comprehensive treatment of systemic thinking. While most business functions teach about the systems housed within them, we suggest that few teach their students to think systemically. We propose a 3-part description of systemic thinking and provide results of a survey that investigates the claim that students are not being taught to think systemically.