The All Things Risk Podcast

The All Things Risk podcast explores the themes of risk, uncertainty and resilience as applied to sports, the arts, current affairs and just about any other domain. We feature long-form conversations with interesting guests who have loads of fascinating stories, tips and tools.
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Aug 24, 2016

Do you ever feel like our organisations are trying to chisel fine sculptures with blunt instruments?  This could be a company pursuing a cost-cutting drive at the expense of innovation and growth, a public policy that aims to solve last year's problem instead of dealing with future challenges, or an education system transfixed on improving test scores at the expense of deeper education.  The world is complex, nuanced and much like one of this show's running themes, interconnected.  The world is digital, and yet, many of our approaches are analog, particularly in the realm of public policy.

Fortunately, there is a better way to look at the world that embraced uncertainty and complexity.  It's called systems thinking and my guest today is an expert in this field.  Michele Battle-Fisher is a professor in the Department of Community Health at Wright State University in Ohio, USA.  She is also the author of a book called "Application of Systems Thinking to Health Policy and Public Health Ethics: Public Health and Private Illness".  She is fun and engaging and we have a very nutrient dense conversation that covers:

  • Michele's background and systems thinking origin story that involves a 5th grade speech contest;
  • What systems thinking is and why it is useful for dealing with uncertainty and risk;
  • Public policy, sub-optimal outcomes and predicting public behaviour;
  • Health and the challenges associated with creating and meeting health targets (including an example from her book that looks at HIC amongst teens);
  • Artificial intelligence (AI);
  • Donald Rumsfeld's famous quote on "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns";
  • "policy puffins"
  • How we can all become better systems thinkers
  • And much more!

Show notes:

Michele's archived blog:

Michele's scholarship webpage:

Michele's book- Amazon-

Springer (publisher)

Twitter @Mbattlefisher


Facebook author page @michelebattlefisher

HumanCurrent podcast @Letsworkhappy

Design4Emergence magazine @d4emergence @gabbleduck (editor- Stacy Hale)

LinkedIn Groups:

  1. System thinking network (formerly Systems Thinking World)
  2. UK Systems Society
  3. SNA for health
  4. Systems Thinking & System Dynamics Practitioners Global Network

Select Research Institutes and Systems Focused Organizations:

  1. Sante Fe Institute
  2. Complexity Explorer (Sante Fe Institute)
  3. Donella Meadows Institute
  4. Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science
  5. International Society for the Systems Sciences
  6. Rethink Health
  7. Waters Foundation
  8. System Dynamics Society

Donald Rumsfeld Documentary

A few recommended books to introduce systems thinking:

  1. Meadows, D. (2008). Thinking in Systems- a primer. Chelsea Green: White River Junction, Vermont.
  2. Mitchell, M. (2011). Complexity: a guided tour. Oxford : New York.
  3. Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding Social Networks. Oxford: New York.
  4. Caldarelli, G. & Catanzaro, M. (2012). Networks- a very short introduction. Oxford: New York.
  5. Holland, J. (2013). Complexity- a very short introduction. Oxford: New York.
  6. Watts, D. (2003). Six degrees- the science of a connected age. Norton: New York.
  7. Barabasi, A-L. (2010). Bursts- the hidden patterns behind everything we do, from your email to bloody crusades. Plume: New York.
  8. Barabasi, A-L. (2014). Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life. Basic Books: New York.
  9. Booth-Sweeney, L. & Meadows, D. (2010). The Systems Thinking Playbook. Chelsea Green: White River Junction, Vt.


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