System Dynamics Ramblings, Tips and Techniques

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An Introduction to a Blog by Andries Botha

The purpose of this blog is not to provide an academic overview of system dynamics, but rather a sharing of many years of experience and learning applying system dynamics to address complex problems.  I would like to see the blog as part of a discussion and learning platform for new and experienced system dynamics practitioners.  Therefore, please start a debate if you disagree with me, or, ask a question.  Remember, there are no dumb questions, only bad answers.

It is important to start with the philosophy I apply to all system dynamics models:  All models are wrong, some models are more wrong than others, but some models are useful.  A system dynamics model can never be a perfect solution as we are working in a dynamic world where Murphy is seen as an optimist.

The strategy I use for system dynamics model building follows from the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.  One of his characters explains that “Brute force is the last resort, of the incompetent.”  Building a system dynamics model on its own is the mathematical equivalent of brute force.

Where does this leave us?  Well, I believe there are 3 critical steps:

  1. Understand the problem.
  2. Understand the domain.
  3. Separate symptoms from root causes.

It also means we have to appreciate that complex outcomes are not necessarily the result of complex environments.  Sometimes bad decisions results in good or bad outcomes.

For now, think about the philosophy and strategy, and remember the three rules for developing any model:

  1. Simplify.
  2. Simplify.
  3. Simplify.

In the next blog I will share more about my journey into the fascinating field of system dynamics.

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