What is System Dynamics?
Philosophers, scientists, and management experts alike see the development of a systematic approach as a suitable way to master the complexity of a constantly changing world (Sterman 2000, p. 4). I.e. to interpret the world as a complex system, where a single act causes effects also in areas not directly affected and where in principle everything is connected to everything. Since the early twentieth century several different schools of system thinking have been developed. (Ossimitz 2000) mentions e.g. general system theory, cybernetics, system dynamics, systemic management, and ecological, biological, communication theoretical, sociological, conflict theoretical, economic, technical and psychological system approaches. System Dynamics was founded in the 1950ies by Jay Forrester and colleagues at the der Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “System dynamics is a method to enhance learning in complex systems” (Sterman 2000, p. 4). Like a flight simulator for pilots, System Dynamics, especially in the form of simulation models, can be used to better understand dynamic interconnections, identify causes of policy resilience, and hence formulate more effective policies. The System Dynamics toolbox includes qualitative methods (Causal-Loop-Diagrams) and quantitative methods (Stock-Flow-Modelling). The former can be used to create logical models and to make first statements about the principal system behaviour. The latter can be used to formulate predictive mathematical models. “But learning about complex dynamic systems requires more than technical tools to create mathematical models. System dynamics is fundamentally interdisciplinary” (Sterman 2000, p. 4). System Dynamics is based on theories about nonlinear feedback systems developed in mathematics, physics and engineering sciences. The methods of System Dynamics can be used to analyse physical, technical and social systems likewise. System Dynamics furthermore builds on findings from the fields of psychology of perception, economics and social science. System Dynamics models help to cope with the challenges of the real world. This necessitates an efficient integration of relevant stakeholders and decision-makers as well as a comprehensive public participation.
Ossimitz, G. (2000) Einführung in die Systemwissenschaften, Karl-Franzens Universität Graz. Graz.
Sterman, J. D. (2000) Business Dynamics - Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
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