Systems and Design Thinking with the Physicians Leadership Academy Alumni

In a conference room at the Columbus Medical Association, alumni of the Physicians Leadership Academy met with Jim Marsden, Coach & Facilitator, to discuss systems and design thinking last Wednesday.  

Jim Marsden speaking about design thinking with PLA Alumni

Jim Marsden speaking about design thinking with PLA Alumni

Systems thinking is not a new concept to physicians. The body is a system and physicians use it every day to diagnose patient issues. Organizations and individuals can apply this thinking, too, and can identify problems in their system structures.

But what if the usual diagnosis doesn’t solve the issue? Or there’s more to the problem than just identifying where it is?  This is where design thinking, combining empathy and context for an issue, comes into the picture.

Marsden, who resides in Boulder, CO, travels the country to speak with individuals and organizations and assist them in transformative changes and design thinking.

“The core of the work I do is supporting people to step more fully into their lives … I’m just here to help,” said Marsden.

He explains further that this is often tough for his clients. “I’m working with people who are finding they are in a pretty challenging spot. What I see is that there can be a ‘stuckness’ with them where they are caught between a rock and a hard place.” He went on to say people all have a “longing for something beyond, but there is something that is here, in the way that it is, holding them back.”

The 10 alumni related to this sentiment and discussed with Marsden how physicians often feel excluded from longing because the work structure doesn’t allow for it.

Marsden said that this is where design thinking can be helpful. “Naming what they’re longing for actually starts to let things go and becomes a bit of a resource to then be looking at, well, what makes this possible?”

He encouraged the alumni to dare to “walk on the other side of the fence, the other side of the structures and to see what it was like. Out of those smaller steps there can be big ‘awarenesses’.”

By the end of the session he had the group asking themselves, “What would you like?” in an effort to get them to begin to identify what truly mattered to them and if it fit within their current systems structure.

“The more people who are actually doing that, the odds go up for organizations to be healthier, for relationships to be healthier, for communities to be healthier, and then society gets healthier.”

IMG_2223 +.jpg

For more information about the Physicians Leadership Academy go to