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  • 15 minutes

Martin Holt On Using Systems Thinking In Practice

Updated Tuesday, 25 January 2022
Martin Holt speaks with Prof. Simon Bell about the way he sees the world, and about his understanding using systems approaches.

Transcript (PDF document27.5 KB)

About Martin

Martin remains one of the most long-standing Associate Lecturers at the OU. He started work on systems education courses in 1991 having first come across the concepts as part of his postgraduate OU studies in Manufacturing. 

Martin describes his approach to STIP as: “A Curious person. I try to follow the adage of learning something new every day though these days it’s more about trying to remember something I’ve forgotten.  What approaches and sectors have I used? – Over the years mainly VSM & SSM. Of the non OU approaches SAST.  Currently tending to use SSM, SD & CSH but that is more down to the things I’ve been involved with [including]... Industry, Civil Service,  Voluntary sector and within the community – both formal (e.g. schools) & informal (e.g. citizen groups) structures.  Why STiP? - It is possible to make an impact when still a relative novice – I've done work where something as simple as getting started with an influence or trajectory diagram has really helped people see things in a new & informative way. Why not STiP? – The learning it brings can sometimes be extremely unwelcome. I’ve been in projects where I’ve been asked not to finish as it became clear that the issues [arising] were extremely sensitive/ embarrassing.  What are the challenges for STiP? I see three. The first is that much that is written is rooted in academicese (?) or consultant speak – we need to use plain English wherever possible as that is the world our students inhabit. Secondly how much new has been developed at the leading edge? Is there anything new or are we just shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic? Finally, I’m not sure that to be a true STiP practitioner we fully realise the extent to which we have to leave our original disciplines behind – or expect others to. The best advice I’ve given myself? Go back to the sources in a systematic way every so often and see how far you have wandered from them. There is nothing wrong with this happening but sometimes I’ve found projects have (unintentionally) distorted my application of an approach over a period of time and find a return to basics is useful. What advice would you give the fledgling practitioner? Be kind. There is a reason why a situation is as it is and it’s usually not of the current people’s making.”


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