The Paper Airplane Factory

The IHI Open School has teamed up with Steve Spear, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of QI 202: Achieving Breakthrough Quality, Access, and Affordability, to design an activity that introduces and practices the skills in designing systems. We invite all of the IHI Open School Chapters to run this activity at an upcoming Chapter meeting or event!

What is The Paper Airplane Factory? 

The activity is intended to guide your Chapter through the process of designing and managing a system that efficiently makes paper airplanes. It will take one hour to complete. The activity instructions are designed to train you – or other Chapter Leaders — to facilitate the activity on your own at your school or institution. We’ve created explicit instructions and video materials to teach you how to facilitate the full activity that will focus on the basic science of systems. 

Read about other Chapters' experiences in running the Paper Airplane Factory Activity:


Why is it important to understand the basic science of systems?

Whether you will be embedded in a health care system as a caregiver, will be responsible for the work of others who are providing direct care to patients, or will be working in a different industry that works with systems (so, really, any industry), you will encounter problems. It is important to understand that you can solve these problems if you understand the basic science of systems and the importance of clear collaboration with your colleagues.


How do you run the Paper Airplane Activity with your Chapter?

  1. Add the activity to the agenda for your next Chapter meeting or event. Keep in mind that this activity takes a full hour to complete, so please encourage your Chapter members to stay for the entire meeting.
  2. Identify someone to facilitate the activity and review the training materials we’ve created. The facilitator can be anyone — a Chapter Leader, student, or a Faculty Advisor. The facilitation is fairly simple to learn; however, it does take some time to prepare. We recommend that you identify a few additional facilitators if your Chapter is large so that the main facilitator has a few extra hands for help if needed.
  3. Run the activity with your Chapter. Email and let us know how your activity went.



Facilitation Materials:


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