Addressing Complex Problems

Contact information

For further information or to request a quotation, please contact the Professional Education Courses Unit on:

Enquiries Phone: 02 5114 5573

Enquiries Email:

In-house delivery

UNSW Canberra Professional Education Courses may be available for in-house delivery at your organisation's premises. In-house courses allow maximum attendance without the additional travel costs. Courses can be developed to suit the specific staff development and training needs of your organisation. Recommended for groups of 10 or more.

This short course (which is also the first three days of our Systems Thinking and Modelling Practice course) introduces the most appropriate ways of visualising the interrelationships between the various parts of real-world problems, from straightforward well-behaved problems to those problems that continually change over time and are resistant to corrective action. The course provides solid foundations for developing strategies and managing problems including those for which conventional reductionist ways of thinking are ineffective. Those interested in practising the skills developed on this course may wish to stay on for the following two days to complete the Systems Thinking and Modelling Practice course, which forms the basis of the micro-credential ZEIT8244 Systems Thinking and Modelling Knowledge course that may be used to gain credit towards a postgraduate program (see Masters credit section below). 

No prior knowledge is assumed. 


"I found the whole course to be valuable in confirming and adding to my knowledge of addressing Complex Problems." 19/09/2016





Dr Sondoss Elsawah holds MSc in operations research and PhD degree in computer science from the University of New South Wales. She is a post-doctoral researcher at University of New South Wales and an adjunct fellow at the Australian National University. Her research and teaching interests include using systems thinking and system dynamics, modelling and simulation, and interdisciplinary knowledge to support problem solving and learning in complex problematic situations. She sits on the executive committee of the Australian/NZ Modelling and Simulation Society, and the organizing committee of the 21st International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (Modsim 2015). She has published widely including journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, and technical reports. She has attracted research grants from Government and industrial agencies in Australia and overseas, including Australian Research Council (ARC) and US National Scientific Fund (NSF).


Course Information


The nature of problems including well-behaved, complex, and wicked problems | Human ability to solve problems | A problem solving framework for complex problems | Introduction to problem-solving tools

Addressing Well-behaved Problems

Identification of stakeholders | Definition of problem statement | Functional decomposition of well-behaved problems | Functional decomposition exercise (in groups): Stakeholders; Constraints; Need statement; Operational scenarios; Measures of effectiveness; Support concepts; and Context diagrams

Addressing Complex/Wicked Problems

The difference between well-behaved problems and complex/wicked problems | Systems thinking language | Understanding the problem | Tools for solving complex problems | Causal loop diagramming (CLD) | CLD exercises | Using archetypes to think about complex problems | reflecting on holistic complexity | Creative thinking methods | Decision making and strategy development (ACTIFELD, Field Anomaly Relaxation)

Courses will be held subject to sufficient registrations. UNSW Canberra reserves the right to cancel a course up to five working days prior to commencement of the course. If a course is cancelled, you will have the opportunity to transfer your registration or be issued a full refund. If registrant cancels within 10 days of course commencement, a 50% registration fee will apply. UNSW Canberra is a registered ACT provider under ESOS Act 2000-CRICOS provider Code 00098G.