Born at Cornell University, Cabrera Research Lab drives basic research, innovation, and public understanding in systems thinking and metacognition. Our Mission-Vision is to Engage, Educate, and Empower 7 Billion Systems Thinkers to solve everyday and wicked problems.



© 2018 Cabrera Research Lab.


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Research. Cognitive Complexity. Metacognition. Structural Systems Thinking. Visual Tactile. Mapping.  Systems Leadership...

Flock Not Clock. Systems Thinking Made Simple. Thinking at Every Desk. Peer Reviewed & Popular articles...

Plectica. ThinkWater. ThinkBlocks. DSRP-VMCL. MetaMap.

Keynotes, trainings, and public resources including: Posters. Infographics. Case Studies. TED Talks and More.


CRLab sponsors a wealth of research and works with practitioners in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Born at Cornell University, Cabrera Research Lab drives basic research, innovation, and public understanding in how systems thinking and metacognition can increase human potential and organizational effectiveness. Our Mission-Vision is to Engage, Educate, and Empower 7 Billion Systems Thinkers to solve everyday and wicked problems. Our research focus is on basic, applied, and translational research in three areas.


We publish. We publish scientific and academic peer-reviewed papers and books as well as popular, translational, articles and books for public understanding.

Flock Not Clock: Design, Align, and Lead to Achieve Your Vision

Flock Not Clock is for CEOs and leaders who want to design and manage their organizations to be laser-focused yet highly adaptive. This book explores four functions that are core to any form of organization (from natural organisms to human organizations) and offers practical steps for implementation.

Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems

Systems thinking can help us solve everyday and wicked problems, increase our personal effectiveness as human beings, and transform our organizations. This book is for anyone interested in learning the foundational ideas of systems thinking. SIMPLE RULES OF SYSTEMS THINKING Systems Thinking Made Simple doesn't mean that we're going to oversimplify it like a ... for Dummies book. It means that we will show how systems thinking emerges when we focus on a simple set of rules. After years of searching for unifying principles, many experts and practitioners in the field of systems thinking have embraced DSRP as universal to all systems thinking methods. Originally a complex mathematical formulation, DSRP has since been made more accessible through powerful modeling and visualization tools. There are two surprising things about our new understanding of systems thinking. First is how simple the four rules are: DISTINCTIONS RULE: Any idea or thing can be distinguished from the other ideas or things it is with SYSTEMS RULE: Any idea or thing can be split into parts or lumped into a whole RELATIONSHIP RULE: Any idea or thing can relate to other things or ideas PERSPECTIVES RULE: Any thing or idea can be the point or the view of a perspective

Thinking at Every Desk: Four Simple Skills to Transform Your Classroom (Norton Books in Education)

Cutting-edge skills for twenty-first-century learners and educators. Designed to transform teaching practice, this book provides the tools to understand thinking patterns and how learning actually happens. It empowers teachers to structure learning in the most meaningful way, helping students explore new paths to knowledge.

Other Publications

There are numerous publications and resources available. Please browse out the Plectica map to see and download them.

The Routledge Handbook of Systems Thinking

Forthcoming in 2019. Edited by Derek Cabrera, Laura Cabrera, and Gerald Midgley

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We look for projects that bridge our scientific research with real-world, practical, everyday experience. We work with excellent teams of excellent people. We don't just think the theories, we build real stuff that makes lives better and increases human potential and organizational effectiveness.

Plectica Software

Based on years of applied research on how we think and learn, Plectica works the way the human brain does: by visually organizing parts that can be combined and connected to each other to form a more complete picture. Whether you're diagramming an internal workflow, brainstorming new opportunities, or onboarding new team members, our mission is to help you map and share better ideas. Our name—Plectica—is a twist on 'plectics' and derived from the Indo-European root *plek- (to fold) which gives us both the words "simple" (once folded) and "complex" (many times folded). Plectics is a broad transdisciplinary science which explores the hallmark of complex systems: simple rules underlie and unfold into the complexity you wrestle with everyday. Plectica is brought to you by a passionate and experienced team of designers, scientists, applied researchers, policy experts, and engineers.

Re:Thinking Film

What if as well as teaching students what to think, we also taught them how to think? This simple but profound idea is the foundation for RE:THINKING, the new educational documentary that inspires us to rethink schools. It gives insight to policy makers, school administrators, parents, and the public. It offers hope to those seeking more from the current educational system.


[From Wikipedia website] ThinkBlocks are a tactile manipulative educational tool invented by Derek Cabrera. Cabrera invented the blocks as a way to teach his graduate and doctoral students systems thinking at Cornell University. ThinkBlocks are designed to model concepts and build thinking skills based on the DSRP theory and method of thinking. This theory posits that four patterns, Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives, underlie all cognition, that they are universal to the process of structuring information, and that people can improve their thinking skills by learning to use the four elements explicitly. Students assign concepts to blocks by writing on them with dry-erase markers, and then associate them with other concepts by using the multi-nesting (multiple blocks inside of blocks), barbell (relational nodes), and looking glass (translucent) properties of the blocks. They were originally white, magnetic dodecahedra in three nested sizes, with one reflective side. In 2012, a new translucent cube-shaped version of the block was introduced. ThinkBlocks were a National Parenting Center Seal of Approval Winner in Fall 2008.


ThinkWater is a national campaign supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people of all backgrounds and ages think and care deeply about water. It does so by applying systems thinking to existing water education and research efforts and by actively engaging people in a new way around water issues. Our Mission-Vision is to Engage, Educate and Empower a world of Systems Thinkers to solve wicked water problems.