A simple and fun introduction to Systems Thinking

An Introduction to Systems Thinking and Wicked Problem Solving™




DrawToast workshops are a great way to get groups to think freshly about mental models. In just 3 minutes, each person sketches a diagram of how to make toast. When comparing diagrams, people are shocked at how diverse the diagrams are, revealing a wide range of models of what's important in making toast. It's a great launch pad for  drawing out what's really important to the group.

There are 8 Simple Steps to the DrawToast Exercise:

Step 1



Get the ingredients: felt markers, thick paper stock, sticky notes or index cards, and masking tape. Stage your room with tables, chairs, and a clear wall where you can post your work. It's important to have enough room for all participants to see everyone's creations.

Step 2



In your invitation, set expectations that your meeting will focus on building a systems model  of an important challenge - clarifying your vision, improving cash flow, figuring out the next bold challenge. Begin with a simple design exercise.

Step 5



Play the TED.com DrawToast video and let it explain the big ideas about systems thinking. After it plays, ask the group how many nodes they drew and what kind?

Step 6

Draw Your Challenge


Have people draw a picture how to improve what what they are working on as a group. This can include almost anything, strategic or tactical. See 'Draw Questions' for inspiration. Make sure people draw individually and in silence.

Step 3



Run the meeting informally. Hand out markers and paper to everyone and ask people to draw a picture of how to make toast.


Give them 2-3 minutes.

You may want to play toast-making music...

Step 7



Have people work at tables. showing and explaining their diagrams. Compare and contrast the diagrams and see what is similar and different between them. What links and nodes are common?

Step 4



Have each person hold up their drawing for all to see. (Let the laughter start) Have the group place their drawings on a large wall space and comment on the drawings; pointing out which are simple and complex, which have people and which don't.

Step 8



If you have the time, have the group develop a systems diagram of the challenges using sticky notes and drawn links. Building on the previous individual diagrams, have groups of 4-6 people create nodes and links to to solve the challenges.

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I was thrilled to deliver a talk introducing my approach to wicked problem solving at
TEDGlobal 2013: Think Again.

You can watch the talk on TED.com by clicking here:

If you'd like to learn more,

Download the DrawToast Systems Thinking Guide:

Tom Wujec


Tom is a Fellow at Autodesk where he helps leadership teams solve complex challenges and design their future with emerging digital technologies.


He is author of four best-selling books on creative thinking and design tools. For more information, visit tomwujec.com.

DrawToast is part of Tom Wujec's Wicked Problem Solving™ toolkit to
help you get playfully clear about what's important in your organization.