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Design in Complex Systems

System Design is about achieving scaled change in complex human systems

In this two-day hands-on Masterclass filled with live case studies and practical tools, you’ll be introduced to joining human centred design and complex systems thinking together to be more effective when working in organisations or whole public service systems – anywhere where multiple people (agents) form around a shared purpose.

Scaled change at a system level requires sensemaking and innovation tools that are about using the design process to create the right conditions for the system change by responding to the emergence and adaptation going on in the system around the person we are interested in..

This masterclass is a slower, in-depth learning experience with leading ThinkPlace practitioners and a small group of like-minded participants.

You will learn the art of zooming out to the breadth of the wide system and zooming into the deep human experience. You will experience the tools for working with systems, the tools for working at the deep human level, and tools to combine both.

You’ll learn to understand complex human systems, the complexity of humans and their behaviours and then devising modifications in order to produce the desired effects.

Learning outcomes

You receive an 80 page workbook with all the content, methods details and templates enabling you to get started by applying on your projects, plus an extensive reading list.

Specifically, you will be able to:

  • Visually model a complex human system;
  • Identify root causes to system flaws or problems;
  • Explore human behavioural complexity across the system;
  • Develop intervention logic that can inform theories of change

Agenda Overview

Day One: System Sensemaking

On the first day you will explore methods to make sense of complex systems. You will learn about the elements of systems (purpose, paradigms, goals, agents and interconnections) and create a visual model of an actual system in our communities that we will work with over the duration of the masterclass. We will then dive into the dynamics of systems and why this makes them complex exploring concepts like feedback and emergence. Day one will close with us exploring where we believe there are flaws in the system based on our desired future vision as system change agents.

Day Two: Human Dynamic Cognitive Complexity and Innovating in Systems

Day two is where we start blending the human centred design and complex systems methodologies together. We learn about the complexity of humans in the system and create typologies using research transcripts. With this insight into humans, we can now learn about and apply root cause analysis to our most significant system flaws. We then shift into ideation mode and system innovation exploring leverage points, modification logic and theory of change. We close talking about leading projects with people thinking about live projects they are working on and how they might apply this thinking to their work.

Who should attend?

This masterclass will be highly valuable for people wanting to affect change working within complex organisations or government or social systems.

You have probably read about complex system design and are seeking to get practical and pragmatic tools that you can lead others through.

Here’s what a couple of participants said about the Melbourne masterclass we held in November:

“This course amply demonstrates the deep knowledge of the ThinkPlace team in its design and expert delivery. It has given me practical tools and a pragmatic, flexible approach I have applied immediately. I now have the confidence to just jump in and be able to sit more comfortably with the ambiguity inherent in a complex system. This allows me to focus on interpreting the wood from the trees to map a cogent story and create crucial shared understanding. 

- Kylie Blake, Experience Designer, ANZ

Upcoming Courses:

Two-Day Masterclass

20th and 27th February Wellington SoldOut

19th and 26th February Wellington 

5th and 12th March Auckland

Would you like to know about the course agenda or talk to a course coordinator?

info [at] (subject: Masterclass%3A%20Design%20in%20Complex%20Systems) (Get in touch)

Course details


NZ $1,300

2 Days
Max class size:

*To enquire about scholarships and discounts, please write to info [at]

Is this course right for me? Talk to one of our Course Coordinators

info [at] (subject: Masterclass%3A%20Design%20in%20Complex%20Systems) (Let's Talk)