Royal Academy of Engineering (UK)
Can you help us to explore how systems thinking can help us better understand the role of leadership in creating more inclusive cultures in the engineering industry?
Participatory Systems Mapping
- An elaborate systems map based on the ‘pipeline of engineers’. The map visualises how individuals navigate in, through, and sometimes out of the engineering industry. The map helps to understand the decision-making process of individuals, as well as the issues at the level of an engineering company and at the level of society.
- Insight into the many potential places to intervene in the system to counteract the feedback loops that currently tend to reinforce low diversity and low inclusion.
- An overview of inclusive leadership mindsets, characteristics and behaviours.
- Recommendations for the inclusive leadership programme of the Academy.
The Royal Academy of Engineering aims to harness the power of engineering to build a sustainable society and an inclusive economy that works for everyone. The Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Team initiated a participatory systems mapping process to explore how systems thinking can help them better understand the role of leadership in creating more inclusive cultures within the engineering industry.
The Academy commissioned Perspectivity to deliver this work. Perspectivity designed and facilitated the participatory systems mapping process, elaborated the systems map, and wrote the final report. The findings will inform the Academy’s new and ambitious inclusive leadership programme.
To better understand the complex dynamics of diversity and inclusion in the engineering industry, we engaged 64 key stakeholders from both industry and academia in two participatory systems mapping workshops. In addition, the Academy conducted 35 one-on-one interviews. The outputs of these conversations were used to create a comprehensive systems map, showing the relationships between the key variables in the system and indicating where in the system actors – with a focus on leadership – can intervene to realise a more diverse and inclusive engineering industry.
“The systems map visualises how individuals navigate in, through, and sometimes out of the engineering industry”
The pipeline of engineers – The systems map that emerged from this process is based on the ‘pipeline of engineers’. The map visualises how individuals navigate in, through, and sometimes out of the engineering industry. It helps us to understand the decision-making process of individuals along this stream, as well as the goals and questions at the level of an engineering company and at the level of society.
Places to intervene – The current reality is that diversity is being lost at every decision-making point and it is difficult to re-enrich the stream further down the line. The system contains multiple feedback loops, which currently tend to reinforce low diversity and low inclusiveness. This research process has revealed many potential places to intervene to move the feedback loops in the desired direction.
Implications for leadership – While not all of the interventions need to be executed by leaders themselves, they do require active commitment from senior leadership to ensure adequate resources. In addition, senior leaders are important role models and well positioned to make the business case for inclusive engineering explicit and appealing in order to take others along.
Throughout this process we also identified the mindset, characteristics, and behaviours that increase the inclusiveness of leaders and have started to explore the knowledge and capabilities they need to develop these.
About participatory systems mapping
Participatory systems mapping offers a framework for dialogue to share and combine the experiences and perspectives of diverse stakeholders in a complex system. It enables a deeper understanding of the behaviour of the system by creating a visual depiction of that system, such as actors, trends, relationships, and feedback loops. The systems map helps to identify the most promising leverage points that can trigger change within a complex system.
“Complex systems are multidimensional, so they look different from different perspectives”
We chose a participatory approach to enable different stakeholders to see their role within the system, how their actions influence the system, and how they are influenced by it. This allowed participants to look beyond their own direct sphere of influence and gain a more holistic view of the system. In addition, participatory systems mapping supports collaboration of diverse stakeholders in the system.