29 November 2022

John Nasr shares his learnings on systems thinking from MIT

John Nasr, our 2021 TSA SMART Prize winner, recently spent time in the United States to attend a System Dynamics course at the world-famous MIT in Cambridge, Boston. He is now sharing his System Dynamics learnings and expertise with TSA, its people and clients.

The TSA Smart Prize was established in 2014. It is an annual organisational award of up to $20,000 and 3-weeks’ paid leave. The winner undertakes an activity – such as a study tour, training, research, investigation, or charitable initiative – that allows them to learn and grow while providing long-term value to TSA’s clients.

System Dynamics was born at MIT in the 1950s. It helps us understand, design, and manage change. System Dynamics uses data and technology to model the relationships between all the parts of a system and how those relationships influence the system’s behaviour over time.

With a long-standing interest in the subject, John had undertaken online courses but wanted to develop his knowledge further. Learning of the SMART Prize, his thoughts immediately turned to MIT, which he describes as the birthplace of System Dynamics.

John’s SMART Prize entry explored how System Dynamics can be broadly applied to complex problem-solving. He proposed a 12-day MIT study trip, intending to apply his deepened understanding of System Dynamics to his project advisory roles. John’s submission was chosen by TSA’s Chairman of the Board, Matthew Quinn, as the most beneficial for TSA’s clients, projects, and the community.

John describes his experience at MIT as exceptional, “I learned how to understand and analyse complex feedback loops and design business strategies in a complex world. We also got to design and play with some of the world’s most sophisticated simulation models of the COVID pandemic, climate change and complex project management.” A personal highlight for John was learning from world leaders in the field, including face-to-face training with John Sterman, Director of the MIT System Dynamics Group.

John’s time at MIT is producing valuable outcomes for TSA and its clients. He is developing an awareness course for systems thinking and delivering internal training as part of TSA’s GROW training curriculum. In September, he presented a paper at the Engineers Australia Systems Engineering Test and Evaluation conference. Next, John plans to share his System Dynamics insights with TSA’s clients through a series of instructive webinars.

As John continues his SMART Prize journey, TSA continues its SMART Prize tradition. Carla Edwards was recently announced as the 2022 recipient for her ‘Healthcare Without Walls’ proposal. She is now mobilising a team of multi-sector collaborators to research how virtual care strategies can be scaled in a post-pandemic world. It’s people like Carla and John, with their thirst for knowledge and a better way forward, that keep TSA and its clients at the forefront of innovation.

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