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University of the Witwatersrand Course

Critical Systems Thinking


16 Sep, 2024

Digital Campus Critical Systems Thinking Course

Course overview

We live in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Systems thinking expert, Michael C Jackson, highlights the demand these characteristics place on decision- makers at every level to manage the emergent complexity within our organisations, society, and environment. These global challenges require a new way of thinking. Systems thinking is an essential future-fit leadership skill.

Critical Systems Thinking provides a framework in which we can apply Systems Thinking methodologies and models in considering new and existing situations and approaching these from multiple perspectives, disciplines, and skills.

This course aims to assist learners to look at situations, whether complex, wicked or simple, more holistically by adopting a collaborative approach on how to view systems, and people as part of the system.

Developing a systems thinking approach enables you to shift from a reactive mindset to a proactive mindset. “Traditionally systems thinking courses teach you how to model a system interaction, in this course, the focus is on the identification of problems and the right tools to help solve them, helping you do something different on Monday”, says Letlotlo

Course curriculum

  • Module 1: Critical Systems Thinking Overview
  • Module 2: System Concepts
  • Module 3: System of Systems Capability Issues
  • Module 4: The Enterprise and Technological Environment
  • Module 5: Critical Systems Thinking Methodology

Course outcomes

  • Define a system, its context within its environment, its boundaries and interfaces and that it has a lifecycle.
  • Understand the global environment, human and societal needs, policy, and business challenges from a Systems perspective.
  • Develop an awareness of the role a System plays in a System of Systems of which it is a part and appreciate the interaction between the system and its environment.
  • Apply Systems Thinking tools and techniques to address complex situations in your own environment.
  • Appreciate multiple perspectives to a given situation and recognise how to work with these.
  • Recognise the evolution of systems within an enterprise and its technological environment.
  • Determine the root cause(s) of a situation, and through synthesis, create feasible solutions for such identified root causes.
  • Relate the key principles and methods of Systems Thinking to your professional practice in dealing with complex, wicked or simple situations.


Letlotlo Phohole, Nicolas Cloete-Hopkins, Paul Bester

Course summary

Format: Wits certified online short course
Certification: Wits University certificate of competence
Duration: 13 weeks
Breakdown: 11 weeks online learning supported with virtual lectures. Final assessment submitted in week 13.
Hours per week: 5 – 7
Language: English

Learn more about our Credly qualification badges here


Students. Accomplished

Paul Motibane


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Critical Systems Thinking

Letlotlo Phohole, Nicolas Cloete-Hopkins, Paul Bester

Letlotlo Phohole

Letlotlo has an MSc in Technology and Innovation Management and is a results-driven executive with a professional career that started in 1996 and experience spanning across various industry types (De Beers, Transnet), science council (CSIR), government funding agency (Technology Innovation Agency) and academia (Wits University). His application of critical systems thinking allowed him to focus on the integration of various socio-technical disciplines as a coherent and effective system and solve wicked problems.

Nicolas Cloete-Hopkins

Nic is a Systems Thinking and Engineering specialist with over 23 years professional experience bridging industry and academia in Africa, UK, Europe, and Indonesia. He is a Senior Lecturer at Transnet Centre of Systems Engineering (TCSE) in the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment at Wits. Nic holds an MSc in Systems Engineering Management from University College London and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Cape Town.

Paul Bester

Paul Bester is a professional engineer (Pr Eng) with programme management, systems and logistic engineering, transportation systems, and asset management experience. Paul’s 40 years’ industry experience include the management of various business units, project portfolio management and providing consulting services. In August 2013 Paul joined the Wits Transnet Centre of Systems Engineering (TCSE) at the Faculty of Engineering at Wits University in the role of Senior Manager: Programmes.

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