System Dynamics
Systems Thinking

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What is Systems Thinking? Definition

Systems Thinking is an approach for studying and managing complex feedback systems, such as one finds in corporations and other social systems. In fact it has been used to describe practically every sort of feedback system.

System Dynamics is more or less the same as Systems Thinking, but emphasizes the usage of computer-simulation tools.

The term System means an interdependent group of things forming a unified pattern. Feedback refers to the situation of X affecting Y, and Y in turn affecting X. Perhaps through a chain of causes and effects. One cannot study the link between X and Y and, independently, the link between Y and X and predict how the system will behave. Only the study of the whole feedback system will lead to correct results.

What is System Dynamics?

System Dynamics is based on Systems Thinking, but takes the additional steps of constructing and testing a computer simulation model. The System Dynamics field developed initially from the book "Industrial Dynamics" of Jay W. Forrester.

Steps in the System Dynamics methodology

  1. Identify a problem,
  2. Develop a dynamic hypothesis explaining the cause of the problem,
  3. Build a computer simulation model of the system at the root of the problem,
  4. Test the model to be certain that it reproduces the behavior seen in the real world,
  5. Devise and test in the model alternative policies that alleviate the problem,
  6. Implement the solution.

Often these steps have to be reviewed and refined, going back towards an earlier step. For instance, the first problem identified may be only a symptom of a still greater problem.

Typical applications of System Dynamics

  • strategy and corporate planning
  • business process development
  • public management and policy
  • biological and medical modeling
  • energy and the environment
  • theory development in the natural and social sciences
  • dynamic decision making
  • complex nonlinear dynamics

Book: John Sterman -  Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking..

Special Interest Group

System Dynamics & Systems Thinking Special Interest Group.

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Forum about System Dynamics & Systems Thinking.


Complexity in Systems Approach
Complexity exists due to a multitude of worldviews held by organisational members and external stakeholders and the cult...
Soft, Hard and Viable Systems
Three systems methods are normally used:
1. Soft systems method - complex messy situations
2. Hard systems met...
Systems Thinking is Considering Issues Holistically
Systems Methodology can aid our analysis of organisations because its key assumption is to consider issues holistically....
Systems Approach and Digitalization
The line between "online" and "offline" sales channels has gradually blurred over the past years. The digital economy ha...
System Archetype 9: Fixes that Fail
Description of Fixes that FailOne of the System Archetypes is...
Strategy > SD > Performance?
Could we use System Dynamics to assess if a firm's strategy is responsible for its performance?...
System Archetype 1: Balancing Process with Delay
Description of Balancing Process with DelayOne of the System Archetypes is...
System Archetype 10: Growth and Underinvestment
Description of Growth and UnderinvestmentOne of the System Archetypes is...
System Archetype 5: Eroding Goals
Description of Eroding GoalsOne of the System Archetypes is...
System Archetype 3: Shifting the Burden
Description of Shifting the BurdenOne of the System Archetypes is...
🔥 NEW The Systems Approach to Covid Virus Understanding
Would thinking about Covid in the same way as what I think was called 'the selfish gene' help us understand its 'mission...
System Archetype 4: Shifting the Burden to the Intervenor
Description of Shifting the Burden to the IntervenorOne of the System Archetypes is...
System Archetype 6: Escalation
Description of EscalationOne of the System Archetypes is...
System Archetype 7: Success to the Successful
Description of Success to the SuccessfulOne of the System Archetypes is...
System Archetype 8: Tragedy of the Commons
Description of Tragedy of the CommonsOne of the System Archetypes is...
System Archetype 2: Limits to Growth
Description of Limits to GrowthOne of the System Archetypes is...

Best Practices

The top-rated topics about System Dynamics & Systems Thinking. Here you will find the most valuable ideas and practical suggestions.

System Archetypes Overview
Systems archetypes are models that describe patterns of organization that keep recurring. They are helpful to show, expl...

Value of System Approach
What value does the system approach have to understanding and analyzing behaviour in oganisations?...

Systems Thinking Schools and Approaches
- PLANNING SCHOOL - systems thinking is a holistic approach to planning complex systems. Pioneers of this approach inclu...

Nonlinear Dynamical Systems
Nonlinear dynamical systems can be linearized, if the relationship between elements of this is information.
To form...

Expert Tips

Advanced insights about System Dynamics & Systems Thinking. Here you will find professional advices by experts.

Complex Adaptive Systems

Organizational Theory
Definition and qualifications of complex adaptive systems capable of successfully coping with chaos: 1. A system must b...

Structure your Organization at the Edge of Chaos

Organizational Development
Although chaos theory was discovered decades ago, it only has emerged in recent years as a model for explaining the chao...

How to Use Counterintuition to Fight 5 Frequent Decision Making Errors

Strategic Decision Making, Dealing with Complexity, Dealing with Uncertainty, Strategy
Mauboussin describes five mistakes in decision making that are often made and result in making the wrong decisions. Thes...

Complexity Principles

Organizational theory
Charasteristics of a conducive environemnt for complex adaptive systems: 1. Complex adaptive systems are at risk when i...
Information Sources

Various sources of information regarding System Dynamics & Systems Thinking. Here you will find powerpoints, videos, news, etc. to use in your own lectures and workshops.

Systems, Systems Thinking and Soft System Methodology (SSM)

Systems Thinking, Soft System Methodology, SSM, Checkland
Presentation that provides well structured information about what are Systems, System Thinking and Soft Systems Methodol...

Are you Facing Complexity? Systems Thinking 101

Systems Thinking, Dealing with Complexity, Strategic Complexity
Video clearly explains System Thinking, using an example in the health industry. Systems Thinkers believe that doing a ...

Systems Thinking for Leaders

Systems Thinking, Leadership, Gestalt Theory, Complexity
Presentation about systems thinking leadership, including the following sections: 1. What is systems thinking? 2. What...

Introduction Into Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking, Communication
Presentation that introduces the concept of Systems Thinking. The presentation includes the following sections: 1. Key ...

Simple, Complicated, Complex and Chaotic Decision Making Contexts

Decision Making, Situations, Context, Types, Complex Circumstances, Chaos, Crisis Management
Dave Snowden explains the Cynefin Framework, which shows that different circumstances require different ways of decision...

Efficiency of Mass Communication

Retail Communication
The $ystem-oriented Management of Efficiency of Mass Communication in Retail. How to forecast growth of knowledge of t...

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Compare with System Dynamics:  Gestalt Theory  |  Strategy Dynamics  |  Soft Systems Methodology  |  Scenario Planning  |  Analogical Strategic Reasoning  |  Five Disciplines  |  OODA loop  |  Game Theory  |  Spiral Dynamics  |  Simulation  |  Quality Function Deployment

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