Hello Kaushik, thank you for joining us today. Can you introduce yourself and your organization? >> Thanks. I'm Kaushik Basu from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town. I'm the director of their executive MBA program and an associate professor in the faculty. And it's a pleasure to participate in your MOOC. >> Thank you Kaushik. Can you give us a little bit about your own background and how you came to be doing what you're doing currently at UCT? >> I started out a career in manufacturing, designing plant control systems, and plant optimization systems. And very technical field and mostly are trying to use technology to improve manufacturing processes. And it wasn't long and I spent in total about 12 years doing this. And throughout this period, I kept going back to systems, and what are the systemic problems we were solving. And as I moved through my career, I became more and more intrigued with the idea of designing purposeful systems. Because I got the sense that if the systems were designed and gave the participants a purpose, then managing is less challenging and you get higher levels of innovation, creativity, cooperation, and energy. So it just seemed logical that I wanted to understand and study how to design purposeful systems. And then I came to the University of Cape Town in 2006 and I started study towards a PhD in project organizing or the philosophy of project organizing. And I read I lot of existential philosophy and sociology to try to understand the lived experience of being in projects. And then developed my systems thinking ideas further and many of the systems theorists. Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Peter Checkland, Geoffrey Vickers, and then a whole number of other systems authors. And soon realized that the whole discipline of systems thinking is a loosely interacting set of fields of studies that are mutually complementing the findings of, and it was truly an interdisciplinary space. And on around 2012 I met Professor Walter Bates who was then the Dean of the Graduate School of Business at University of Cape Town. And we started chatting about the ideas he had about complexity and the ideas I had about existentialism and systems thinking. And even asked me to come help take their executive program to newer heights, which was an already a successful program. And this has been my journey for the last what would be 22, 24 years. >> Kaushik, that's really interesting. So how do you build that systems perspective that you were just talking about into the learning experience of the executive MBA students? >> That's an interesting question really, I think it's a focus on both the tools, which are, you know, the systems. The field of systems thinking is often made tools, concepts, and theories to look at building models that show emergent concurrent hypotheses all running at the same time. And you have to teach that to the students, while at the same time, you build what I was saying, ontology of their own being in the world, and how action is created. Now the, Kathia Laszlo interestingly wrote in a paper in 2012, that systems thinking is the start of a journey of improving one's consciousness about the system one is participating in. And in the paper itself, she doesn't really give ideas on how to do this. And I've been over the years tinkering and plus trying out different things. But what I've found is necessary to do is to start teaching the tools with a, ontology where the system is outdated almost. You get students to appreciate model systems out there, and then you start to shift their ontology to talk about, well, systems from the perspective of somebody from a perceptually guided active in the world. And then you shift that and you talk about systems in the world that are intellectual delineations and worlds that people are functioning in. And then you start to see language quite differently and at the same time you also start to talk about the whole theoretical construct of what a system is. It's merely an intellectual delineation of a world that you would like to discuss with other people or reconcile perspectives around a particular way in which you think the world should work, or is working. And then finally, when you reach the, what I would call the most mature stage of executive development, is it's the building of these models for the sake of insight and emotional commitment. So at this level now you truly use the models to be affected by the modeling, as well as effect the world out there. So the modeling is done for entirely different reasons. So the teaching of systems thinking has two strengths. The one's the tools and the concepts, and the other strand is a whole philosophical understanding of how action arises in the world, and talking about the being of human beings in the world. And I think through those kinds of conversations, you truly build the competence of systems thinking and systems being. Because the one without the other is not the most effective state to have in an executive in particular. >> I'm just taking that on a little bit. So the objective really if you're thinking theological terms of means and ends is actually to bring about some form of change and transformation. So is that being in the world the mechanism through which you think collectively you can bring about change in that system, change in the way that things are happening, to earn some kind of normative challenge based scenarios, some kind of alteration of the world that people experience. >> Absolutely, you could also use the word you make people more conscious of their own agency in the world. So you're really looking at systems and their levers with which you can change these systems. So when I talk about an emotional commitment or effectiveness from the modeling, that's exactly what I mean is the consciousness and agency to change it go. So in a way, through systems ideas you truly boulder transformative leadership capability. >> That's really interesting. That's so relevant to our MOOC, as well, in the way that we would integrate those different ideas into a kind of holistic way of thinking. So now I'd like you to explain a bit to us about how you might apply that thinking in the specific context of challenges facing South Africa today. >> We could start off with just recovering some key issues in South Africa's current political, economical, and social context. So we have a couple of major priorities to attend to in South Africa. The one being the kind of, High unemployment rates amongst the youth of our country. At the same time we face a challenge with trying to pursue economic development in the world context where low growth is kind of the new normal. And thirdly you look at the, the world of commodity prices now and almost being at the bottom end of the cycle of part of a commodity boom that is pass to us. And now trying to think about how do you shift large work forces and industry focus on mining or extractive mining? And the fourth challenge is, if you look at it is dealing with the lower levels of social development that is arising from low levels of human development, that is arising from a combination of factors, economic development, historical inequalities. So in a way, we have a complex situation where we are noticing growing levels of inequality, growing levels of distress, also social systems in distress. And these are at an organizing trajectory that has been started decades ago. But our inability to try and model and understand these things and understand that the collective efforts of government, business, and other agencies responsible to improving the situation. And then understanding how they all interrelate, has not been the focus. What we've rather been doing is pursuing policy choices that were conceived in isolation and then integrated as an afterthought. So, if you were working with a systems metaphor, you would have understood that all of these things are interrelated. They're a set of interlocking ideas that are accumulating gains or accumulating losses for society. And then how do we manage this big moving picture? But we make plans periodically almost in a vacuum and not understanding that actually a product of a system is already set in motion. So it's no use arguing with economists that that's what they're doing. I think, it's trying to change the way which you have, public policy making is not done in a systematic manner. Nor is it done in the manner that fosters action. You go back to the systems idea of world making. And the world making needing a dialogue for the world to concretely be accessible to people to participate. Our policy making processes have tried, but not necessarily achieved it. So we have policy that's made and in the minds and the hearts of the policy makers, but not necessarily in the minds and the hearts of every member of society. So we don't have a concerted effort to move together, forward i any particular [INAUDIBLE]. So it points to a real lack of systems thinking. A largest planning activities as a nation. And that's a real challenge and I think it's a challenge that is partly educational but it's also partly the philosophical ideas that underpin how we plan governments, how do we plan public policy. So what we're arguing and should argue for is a different ontology to look at these problems. And I can't claim that we're very far down the road with that. But we've been putting in effort, and I think we ought to put in more effort. >> That's really fascinating. And then I think, finally, because on the MOOC, we're asking the participants to think about some of the messages and tools and things that we present in our Practitioners Present during the course of the six weeks. And think of it in context of a real lived example that is affecting them at the moment, or maybe in their organization, or in their community, or in their professional group. And to apply some of the things that we've been talking about. So can you take an example in the South Africa context, where your system's thinking could usefully be applied to address a problem that might currently exist or maybe one of your students has worked on or something that's a real lived example of what you're explaining? >> I probably won't use mining. I'll use an example of a logistics company in South Africa. >> Uh-huh. >> There was a student who's worked for a multinational logistics company in South Africa, and the company he worked for is listed in the New York Stock Exchange. So it's a multi-national from the perspective, and he had no real contextual understanding of how to deal with the frustrations of South Africa being in a low-growth environment, and poor business results at the same time. And he had to find a way in which he could himself become motivated to do something about this. You can almost say it would have resulted in abdicating the leadership role of taking this whole situation and making it better. When you face the macro context of the shareholder pressure of wanting better returns and consistent returns, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The pressure has to be there. Then you have another sub system of there being poor business results for a number of reasons. And he was demotivated by this. And the world he was seeing was one of hopelessness. And as soon as he started to model and resist the trying to find new business model choices, not necessarily accept the current choices on the table. Cut costs to deliver more returns to shareholders, or resign and find something more prosperous. He really tried to find a new business model. And the systems tools had helped him to develop a perspective of the world in which an investment in the long-term would also set concurrently with the short-term demands placed on the organizational entity. And if it wasn't through the systems thinking tools, then he would have just felt hopeless, I think. There wouldn't have been no levers for him to draw on. So that's an example of how systems thinking tools, help re-world somebody who's become de-worlded, in a sense, where they don't see levers in the system in which they can change and shift it. >> Well, thank you, Kaushik. That's a lovely example of how, in the South Africa context and the particular economic, social context, a real project was developed for one of your students to re-look at the company they worked in, from a systems perspective, to bring about a change, a new way of thinking towards a new form of responsibility to the South African society. So I'd like to thank you for joining us very, very much indeed. And we'll be in touch again. Thank you. >> Thanks, Addie, it was a pleasure.