All true innovation challenges systems. In 1999, Donella Meadows published a short article called “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System” which provides a model for systemic change that is reducible to practical steps in developing projects that challenge systems.

Using Meadows’s rubric as a point of departure, I have developed a system for working with groups that seek to create opportunities for systemic change to understand where the pressure points in their environments lie. We use a combination of lateral thinking and deep discussions as a method for gaming projects through systems of thought and understanding in order to achieve paradigmatic change at an institution or organization.

I developed this system in order to better understand and explain systems thinking to planners and innovators but have also applied it in the analysis of ongoing projects to determine unexpected challenges that emerged. This is in keeping with the principles of Emergent Design (and IdeaSpaces) that no design is ever really complete and that designs have to evolve and change as they are deployed into the real world. As an exercise I have applied Meadows’s rubric to the ongoing West Houston Institute project.