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Using systems thinking to educate for sustainability in a business school

Miller, Susan; Gregory, Amanda


Susan Miller


This paper explores what it means for a business school to embed systems thinking and sustainability into the curriculum by looking at both the application of systems thinking to the design of sustainable programmes and the teaching of system thinking to support understanding of sustainability. Although programmes that include systems thinking and sustainability as “bolt ons” are becoming more common, how these may best be integrated throughout the curriculum is still largely unexplored. In this paper, curriculum design is viewed through the lens of Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model; viewing the management curriculum in this way emphasises the essential interconnectedness of the subject matter rather than its reduction into blocks of knowledge that are containable within standard size teaching modules. Merely recognising the interconnected nature of management knowledge does not go far enough, though, and there is a complementary need to equip students with approaches for describing more complex and pluralistic views of the world and to address such complexities. In this paper, the specification of a module, underpinned by Flood and Jackson’s System of Systems Methodologies, that might serve to achieve these ends by introducing business students to a range of systems approaches is discussed. The challenges that realizing such an undertaking in practice might involve are also reflected on.


Miller, S., & Gregory, A. (2014). Using systems thinking to educate for sustainability in a business school. Systems, 2(3), 313-327.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 20, 2014
Online Publication Date Jul 11, 2014
Publication Date Sep 1, 2014
Deposit Date Feb 25, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 25, 2016
Journal Systems
Electronic ISSN 2079-8954
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Issue 3
Pages 313-327
Keywords Systems thinking; Sustainability; Education; Curriculum design; Business schools
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a copy of an open access article published in Systems, 2014, v.2 issue 3.


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