023. Systems, Design, and Social Change


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David Peter Stroh is the bestselling author of Systems Thinking for Social Change: A Practical Guide for Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results.

For the past 40 years, David has helped leaders to apply systems thinking to organizational strategy, and achieve breakthrough, sustainable change. He is a founding partner of the influential consulting firm Bridgeway Partners, a faculty member of the Academy for Systems Change, and a charter member of the Society for Organizational Learning.


In this conversation we talk about:

  • How he was exposed as a child to both natural and urban complexity growing up in Inwood, at the very northern tip of Manhattan, NY.
  • How he fell in love with transportation systems, but ended up studying Organization Development at MIT.
  • How his search for greater impact a seat at the table led him down the Systems Thinking path, and eventually to found a consulting firm alongside Charlie Kiefer, Robert Fritz, and Peter Senge, later of The Fifth Discipline fame.

We also discuss:

  • What’s a system, and what’s system’s thinking?
  • Why do complex systems often yield unintended consequences?
  • What are the benefits of systems thinking, especially in the worlds of Impact?
  • What does it tell us about Wealth Inequality, and poverty?
  • And why David has come to see Systems Thinking as an almost spiritual practice?

David’s book and his blog are must reads for anyone interested in making deep and lasting positive impact, and avoid undesirable consequences. And this conversation can serve as a good and I think exciting intro.


[3:34] Life During Covid [6:00] The Advantages of Various Points of View [12:17] The Birth of Innovation Associates [18:05] Defining Systems Thinking [22:57] The Role of Intent In Systems [33:32] The Benefits of The Systems Thinking Approach In Creating Change [42:56] The Spiritual Aspects of Systems Thinking [59:03] A Sermon for Those Who Wish to Create Change



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