Institute of Systems Wisdom

The mission of the Institute is to encourage, support and exchange curiosity-driven research and ideas, and to seek solutions to current challenges by applying systems and design thinking. Exchanged information often favors speculative thinking as this produces advances in knowledge that can change the way we understand and act in the world.

The Institute of Systems Wisdom is an innovative social-academic-practice community that emerged as a result of three years of applied consulting and research projects hosted within the Organizational Dynamics graduate studies program at the University of Pennsylvania. When the decision was made to move the host for new projects from Penn to Systems Wisdom, the project members (faculty, scholars, practitioners and students) established the Institute of Systems Wisdom. When key project members received appointments in the Doctoral Program of Strategic Leadership at Philadelphia University, a relationship between the Institute and the Strategic Leadership doctorate was established. This included that each admitted doctoral student would become a fellow in the Institute.

Strategic Leadership Collaboratory

The fusion of collaboration and laboratory produces a collaboratory defined as "an open space for all stakeholders where action learning and action research join forces, and students, educators, and researchers work with members of all facets of society to address current dilemmas." - Wulf, W. (1993) The collaboratory opportunity. Science, 261, 854-855.

Fellows of the Institute of Systems Wisdom and students, faculty, coaches and research mentors from the Strategic Leadership Doctor of Management program of Philadelphia University have established the Strategic Leadership Collaboratory. Ranked in the US top 25 Doctor of Business Administration programs, the Philadelphia University (PhilaU) Doctorate in Strategic Leadership engages in real-time, client-sponsored consulting, executive education and research projects as a fundamental learning process. Students who are mid- and senior- level professionals engage in new knowledge and skill discovery and creation with direct application to the professional context. To support learning objectives in doctoral courses, all doctoral students receive 24 months of individual and team executive leadership coaching, presentation and communication coaching, and writing coaching to support critical concept learning, action learning and reflective learning as they complete coursework and produce an organizational practice-focused doctoral dissertation or capstone project.


A fellow may be recommended by another fellow and may join the Institute of Systems Wisdom based on academic or practice experience, and adherence to the Institute's mission. Fellows may be graduate students who participated in course or project work involving systems and design applications at the University of Pennsylvania and at Philadelphia University; scholars, researchers and faculty associated with any academic institution; and practitioners, researchers, consultants and educators who provide organizational services.

Fellows receive

  • Letter of acceptance
  • Authorization to use the phrase, Fellow of the Institute of Systems Wisdom (FISW)
  • Fellows Newsletter and email updates about systems/design thinking and complexity drawn from academic and professional publications; updates and events about research and applied projects from academic degree programs; news service highlighting organizational challenges and outcomes
  • Encouragement to submit for distribution individual or group thought pieces, experiences or papers on topics that adhere to the Institute’s mission
  • Access to the resources of our growing community of partners including In2 InThinking Network, BMP-D, and the Ackoff Collaboratory for Advancement of the Systems Approach

For additional information about fellows please contact Larry M. Starr, Ph.D., Executive Director, Institute of Systems Wisdom (

Fellows Invitation

Accept an invitation to become a Fellow of the Institute of Systems Wisdom. Use Membership Code “2016 FISW.”