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Collected Papers of Jay W. Forrester

Author: Jay W. Forrester

Jay W. Forrester (1918 – 2016) was a pioneering American computer engineer and systems scientist. He was a professor at MIT and later the MIT Sloan School of Management. Forrester is credited with being one of the inventors of magnetic core memory, the creator of the first computer animation, and the father of the field of System Dynamics – a computer-aided approach for strategy and policy design.

This collection includes provocative discussions of issues critical to manufacturing managers, including production-distribution systems, inventory and in-process order corrections, corporate growth patterns, and the reduction of research costs. Industrial dynamics – the application of feedback concepts to social systems – offers a rational foundation to support the art of management. Published 1975.

Other books written by Jay W. Forrester include:

Dynamics of Commodity Production Cycles

Author: Dennis L. Meadows


Why do price and production of commodities fluctuate? Is the cyclical behavior unique to each commodity or is it due to a common structure underlying all commodities? Can the influence of a new policy or institutional arrangement on the stability of commodity markets be predicted?

Dynamics of Commodity Production Cycles addresses such questions. Economists, managers, investors, and government officials should benefit from this new theory of the structure and dynamics of commodity systems. Professor Meadows finds the classical Cobweb Theorem and its modifications inadequate representations of dynamic relationships in actual commodity systems. Employing the industrial dynamics methodology, he develops a general dynamic model of the economic, biological, technological, and psychological factors which lead to the instability of commodity systems. To verify the model and to show how the general theory applies to a specific commodity, the author reviews the literature on pork production in the United States. Values appropriate to the production and consumption of pork are obtained tor each parameter in the general model. The dynamic behavior of the resulting hog cycle model is similar to the observed four-year cycle. With appropriate managerial and biological coefficients, the model also yields the typical cattle and chicken cycles. Although animal commodities are used as examples, the general model is applicable to mineral and vegetable commodities as well. The general dynamic model of commodity production cycles is especially useful for computer simulation. It permits experiments to test alternative policies and structural changes and their effect on the stability of a commodity system. The results of several such experiments present surprising implications for stabilization policies. The work is discussed which must precede the design of policies and institutions for commodity stabilization. Published 1970.

Elements of the System Dynamics Method

Edited by Jorgen Randers


Elements of the Systems Dynamics Method explores how models of dynamic systems are made. The authors give practical advice about choosing a problem that will yield interesting results, what to include in the model and what to leave out, the desirable amount of detail, selecting parameter values, knowing whether the model is “good,” and how to make the model interesting to other people. Published 1980.

Feedback Thought in Social Science and Systems Theory

Author: George P. Richardson


Feedback Thought in Social Science and Systems Theory is an original investigation into the history of an idea and a way of thinking in the social sciences – the loop concept underlying the notions of feedback and circular causality. After tracing the concept’s historical roots, George P. Richardson argues that modern usage of feedback thinking in the social sciences divides rather dramatically into two main lines of development, which proceeded from 1945 through at least the 1970s in considerable ignorance of each other.

The presumption underlying the work is that feedback thinking is one of the most penetrating patterns of thought in all social science. Usually implicit, sometimes explicit, feedback thought is embedded in the very foundations of social science and systems theory. Great social scientists are feedback thinkers, great social theories are feedback thoughts. This intellectual history illuminates the significance of feedback thinking in social science and social policy – current as well as classical. Published 1999 (Originally published in 1991)


Industrial Dynamics

By: Jay W. Forrester

Industrial Dynamics is the cornerstone of System Dynamics and must be experienced by any serious systems thinker. What makes Industrial Dynamics—or any book—a classic? Timelessness. Although it was first published more than 50 years ago, Industrial Dynamics is durably relevant for those interested in how social systems work. Nothing in this book is outdated. Because systemic problems are complicated and messy, the book provides comprehensive examples in problem definition, simulation model-building and ways to judge the quality of results. Its principles apply to understanding the role of policy and decision making in social systems as diverse as healthcare, finance, production-distribution, conflict resolution, the environment, and ecology. The creation of computer models to simulate system behavior does not require great mathematical ability, but there are skills to be developed and pitfalls to be avoided. Industrial Dynamics is written to lead the learner through the methodology from conceptualization through model formulation, testing, and analysis to implementation. The text is supplemented by fifteen brief appendices that tackle topics such as beginners’ difficulties, information smoothing and the limits of prediction. Systems planning is the tool of the responsible problem-solver to derive guiding principles for the future. The process begins with Industrial Dynamics.

Published 1999 (Originally published in 1961).

Introduction to System Dynamics Modeling

Authors: George P. Richardson, Alexander L. Pugh III


System dynamics, as a field of insight and inquiry, offers a new way to think about complex organizations.

Designed for working managers and analysts, this book is highly recommended as a basic introduction to system dynamics as well as an approachable, non-technical presentation of the fundamentals of computer implementation of system dynamics. Published 1999 (Originally published in 1989).


Introduction to Urban Dynamics

Authors: Louis Edward Alfeld; Alan K. Graham


The publication of Jay W. Forrester’s Urban Dynamics in 1969 introduced a new perspective on analyzing urban problems. The book attracted attention worldwide and stirred a great deal of controversy and debate. Introduction to Urban Dynamics provides a step-by-step approach to understanding both the key elements of the System Dynamics modeling methodology and the ideas and concepts introduced in Urban Dynamics. It explains the complexity of the urban system by examining simpler urban subsystems one at a time. The book contains eleven urban models. Each model is slightly more complex and realistic than the one before it. For example, Chapter 1 describes a simple model of unlimited economic expansion. Chapter 2 modifies that model to portray growth within a fixed land area, such as a central-city area. Each chapter illustrates some principles of urban behavior and discusses the model in terms of real events and policy issues. The book shows how the three major concepts of urban dynamics – land use, attractiveness, and aging and obsolescence – provide a framework to view the behavior of the entire city. Organized as a textbook with practice exercises and suggested readings within each chapter, the book is aimed at students of systems analysis and city planners. The reader of Introduction to Urban Dynamics, when finished, “should be able to visualize a city as a unified system that can be managed to improve the quality of life for its residents.” Published 1976.

Managerial Applications of System Dynamics

Edited by Edward B. Roberts

System Dynamics, as a field of insight and inquiry, offers a new way to think about our organizations. It provides strategic language and tools to support lasting, effective company-wide improvement. How do you apply the principles and tools of System Dynamics to management, business strategy, modeling, planning, and forecasting? The contributing authors of this anthology Managerial Applications of System Dynamics address this question in essays on complex corporate models, workload fluctuations, the “Honeywell experience,” the growth strategies of a trucking company, organizational change, organizational strategy, aging organizations, weekly stock prices, long-range strategic planning, and many other timely topics.

This book was originally published in 1978 and reprinted in 1999. Published 1999.

Principles of Systems

Author: Jay W. Forrester 


    • Jay W. Forrester (1918 – 2016) was a pioneering American computer engineer and systems scientist. He was a professor at MIT and later the MIT Sloan School of Management. Forrester is credited with being one of the inventors of magnetic core memory, the creator of the first computer animation, and the father of the field of System Dynamics – a computer-aided approach for strategy and policy design.
    • In Principles of Systems, Professor Forrester explains the basic principles behind system behavior. He introduces the concepts of structure and dynamic behavior that were first introduced in his prior books, Industrial Dynamics (1961) and Urban Dynamics (1971). Due to the general nature and wide applicability of the principles discussed, this book has been adopted by numerous colleges and universities as an introduction to teaching System Dynamics in many multidisciplinary courses on urban, environmental, corporate, and other complex social systems. The accompanying workbook also allows students to gauge their learning throughout the book. The book serves on its own as well as being a complement to other books on the nature of social systems. Professor Forrester wrote many widely known papers in engineering and management.


By purchasing the digital title you agree NOT to distribute print or digital files of Principles of Systems – NO shipping charge for the electronic version.

Readings in Urban Dynamics – Volume 1

Edited by Nathaniel J. Mass


Since 1969, the urban dynamics research program at MIT has focused on studying the long-term processes of urban development and the determinants of urban growth and decay. The urban dynamics approach to modeling centers on analyzing the mutual interactions among the various subsystems of an urban area. Readings 1 through 4 provide an introduction to the methodology and perspective underlying this approach. Taken collectively, the papers discuss the value of mathematical models in analyzing social systems and summarize several of the broad policy implications derived from the original urban model and from subsequent work. Published 1974.

Readings in Urban Dynamics – Volume 2

Edited by Walter W Schroeder; Robert E Sweeney; Louis Edward Alfeld


This second volume is a record of urban dynamics research through 1974, and offers a treatment of issues in urban modeling. It responds to many initial criticisms of Urban Dynamics, presents further results of applying the methodology in Lowell, Massachusetts, and describes model extensions to account for land rezoning, housing abandonment, and city-suburb interactions. Published 1975.

This first volume of Readings in Urban Dynamics can be found here.

The Electronic Oracle

By Donella H. Meadows and Jennifer M. Robinson

The Electronic Oracle: Computer Models and Social Decisions investigates the practice and impact of systems analysis and computer modeling, particularly as applied to social policy. The authors explore the nature of models, the biases and hidden assumptions of different modeling methods, the pragmatics of the modeling process, and the impact of modeling on the real world. These issues are approached through detailed case studies of nine models designed to address issues of economic development, resources and the environment. This book compares the pros and cons of the modeling paradigms used to understand the complex interactions that influence the behavior of social systems: System Dynamics, econometrics, linear programming, input/output analysis, and optimization. The authors explore why so many modeling projects fail and present guidelines for improvement. The methods developed in the book to expose hidden assumptions, to make undiscussable values and biases discussable, remain central to anyone seeking to have an impact on the real world.

The book both anticipated and shaped important developments, including the focus on ‘modeling for learning,’ group model building, and the systems thinking and organizational learning movements. This book is of continuing relevance.

Published 1985.