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How Did En-ROADS Get 755,000 users? Lessons on Modeling, Interface Design, and Facilitation

How Did En-ROADS Get 755,000 users? Lessons on Modeling, Interface Design, and Facilitation

Achieving widespread engagement is a significant challenge with a System Dynamics model. Yet, En-ROADS, the climate solutions simulator co-developed by Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan, has captivated hundreds of thousands of users globally. In this webinar led by Andrew Jones, John Sterman, and Florian Kapmeier, the team shared how their commitment to System Dynamics modeling principles, innovative interface design, and thoughtful facilitation created a global movement. The lessons learned are relevant for all System Dynamics modelers seeking to make a greater impact in their fields.

1. Modeling: Build Trust and Ensure Accuracy

“You have to have a rigorous, evidence-based model that is fully documented and tested every which way.” John Sterman

En-ROADS’ impact is built on a robust modeling foundation that adheres to rigorous standards of transparency and continuous testing. John Sterman underscores the importance of rigorous validation: “You have to have a rigorous, evidence-based model that is fully documented and tested every which way,” he states, highlighting the necessity for clear, accessible documentation that allows users to understand and trust the model’s operations.

The En-ROADS team enhances model reliability by calibrating past model behavior against historical data (by, e.g. Lazard, the IEA, etc.) and comparing future model behavior against the behavior of climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), identifying discrepancies not only to prove correctness, but also to pinpoint areas needing improvement. Andrew Jones elaborates on this process: “We compare the model against historical data to understand where the discrepancies are and how we can improve. It’s not about proving the model’s correctness but about identifying areas for growth and improvement.”

For System Dynamics modelers looking to build confidence in the model, these practices are essential. Providing full transparency through comprehensive documentation and continuously validating models against industry benchmarks are crucial steps in establishing credibility. By adhering to these principles, modelers can ensure their models are technically robust and able to support decision-making.

2. Interface Design: Guide Users to Key Insights

“We designed the interface to lead a user to discover our modelers’ top insights without support.” Andrew Jones

En-ROADS’ interface is designed to ensure users reach key insights intuitively. Andrew emphasized the goal: “We designed the interface to lead a user to discover our modelers’ top insights without support.” The interface offers both a beginner mode for quick understanding and an advanced mode for users with more technical skills, providing detailed charts and additional assumptions. Dynamic visuals and animations transform static data into a narrative, making complex concepts accessible and engaging.

Within a few minutes exploring the En-ROADS interface, new users quickly grasp three critical insights:

  1.  “It’s still possible” – to bend the emissions curve and reduce average temperature increase.
  2. “There’s no silver bullet”, highlighting that no single solution can solve the climate crisis.
  3.  “Many solutions together”, emphasizing that combining multiple climate solutions is necessary to mitigate the climate crisis.

An interface designed around key insights helps users understand complexity. The ease of engaging with a new innovation—trialability—is crucial for initial adoption and fostering word of mouth. Yet, negative experiences can lead to adverse feedback, potentially stifling the adoption and diffusion of the model. Sterman emphasized: “if people try something and have a bad experience, they will generate unfavorable word of mouth that can squelch the adoption and diffusion of your model.”

John Sterman emphasizes the consequences of neglecting interface quality: “Suppose you have the world’s greatest model, but a terrible interface. Nobody learns anything, nothing will change, and you and everyone have wasted precious time and resources. That’s a failure mode.”  But he warns, “The opposite, though, is far more dangerous: a great interface with an underlying model that lacks integrity and hasn’t been carefully tested means you’re helping people learn things that are wrong and possibly downright harmful far more effectively than ever before.”

By focusing on intuitive design and rigorous validation, En-ROADS ensures that the simulation is insightful and reliable for understanding possible climate solutions. This strategy serves as a reference for those aiming at making their models both informative and influential. As a System Dynamics Modeler, which 2-3 key takeaways would you like users to learn from your model?

3. Facilitation: Create a Safe Space for Learning

Make sure that you create a safe room where participants can share and challenge their mental models to allow them to engage deeply and learn together.” – Florian Kapmeier

Facilitation is critical to En-ROADS’ global impact. Through experiences like the interactive En-ROADS Climate Workshop and the roleplaying game Climate Action Simulation Game, Climate Interactive effectively conveys the insights of the model by fostering environments that encourage deep learning and reflection. Florian Kapmeier emphasized the importance of these settings: “Make sure that you create a safe room where participants can share and challenge their mental models to allow them to engage deeply and learn together.” This approach allows participants to openly test their assumptions and understand the underlying dynamics of climate change.

Florian, referred to Andrew’s Top 10 Tips to Engage People with a System Dynamics Model,  highlighting one key aspect: By asking participants  to mentally the likely impact of a climate solution on the temperature before running a scenario in En-ROADS, participants reveal their existing mental models and learn more effectively by comparing their understanding with model results. “Learning happens when the theory of thinking is laid out and people have to make a choice.”

The commitment to creating a secure and open space for dialogue is foundational to the success of the engagements with En-ROADS. This facilitation strategy enhances the participants’ ability to understand complex concepts, and encourages them to apply these insights in practical and impactful ways. By ensuring that each session serves as a safe space for exploration and challenge, Climate Interactive fosters an environment where transformative learning and genuine understanding can occur.

Climate Action Simulation for IKEA, Australia

Community & Policy Engagement

Community building has been fundamental to extend En-ROADS’ reach globally. Thousands have completed the Mastering En-ROADS training program, which empowers facilitators to engage diverse audiences. The En-ROADS Climate Ambassador program further nurtures hundreds of facilitators who provide En-ROADS Workshops and Climate Action Simulations worldwide, ensuring a unified network of like-minded advocates. This well-structured support system ensures that these facilitators are equipped to spread their knowledge effectively, fostering a collaborative and impactful community.

In addition to training and support, Climate Interactive’s team emphasized the importance of engaging with policy makers, adapting communication to meet where they are in terms of climate change understanding. Presenting complex model data in an accessible manner is crucial for meaningful engagement. This strategy ensures that decision-makers receive information and are equipped to act on it.

The Power of System Dynamics

“System Dynamics is the most powerful way to engage other people in ways to improve system performance.” – John Sterman

The success of En-ROADS hinges on a commitment to the core principles of System Dynamics, paired with innovative interface design and effective facilitation strategies. This approach has educated a global audience on climate solutions and empowered them to act. John Sterman, reflecting on the broader implications, asserts, “System dynamics is the most powerful way to engage other people in ways to improve system performance”, underscoring the potential of System Dynamics to facilitate meaningful discussions and drive change across various domains.

Sterman reminded the audience that the discipline’s strength lies in its ability to convey complexity in a way that decision-makers can understand and act upon: “System Dynamics modelers need to invite people into the conversation, to join the collective effort and improve system performance together.” This collaborative spirit is reflected in the global network of facilitators, policymakers, and climate advocates brought together by En-ROADS.

As System Dynamics modelers, the challenge is to not only build robust models but also to design engaging interfaces, facilitate participatory workshops, and nurture a community of like-minded advocates. By doing so, modelers can extend their influence beyond their field and create meaningful change in the world.

Watch the recording below

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Welcome, Allyson!

New President

Allyson Beall King joined the Policy Council as our 2024 President. Her primary role is as director of the Washington State University School of the Environment, which focuses on regional ecologies and our changing planet. Her expertise in Systems Dynamics spans various fields, including environmental science and natural resource management. Her work involves collaboration across disciplines to address complex environmental challenges. A select list of her publications can be found in the Society bibliography.

She looks forward to working with the Policy Council and the Society office to bring more ideas to fruition. Reach out to her with thoughts on how we might better achieve our goals of growth of the field.

 

A heartfelt thank you

We thank Brad Morrison (Brandeis University) for his dedicated leadership throughout 2023.

His contributions as President have been invaluable in advancing the field of System Dynamics and strengthening our community.

As Brad transitions from his role, we look forward to his continued involvement and guidance within our community as Past President.

New VPs

Memberships


As a full-fledged professor in Action Research at Radboud University, Inge Bleijenbergh has a deep-rooted passion for fostering equality, diversity, and inclusion. She employs participatory approaches such as focus groups and group model building, engaging organizational members to unravel and tackle complex issues.

She’s genuinely excited about the journey ahead. If you have ideas to broaden membership or enhance its benefits, she would be more than happy to hear from you.

Publications



Bob Eberlein is a founding member of the System Dynamics Society. His service in various roles since 1984, most recently as VP Epresence, has been instrumental in shaping the organization.

His notable contributions include the development of System Dynamics modeling software like Vensim and Stella Architect. Currently, he channels his expertise as a consultant at isee systems.

In this new role, he hopes to expand the visibility of practical applications of System Dynamics. If you have thoughts to share on Society publications, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Policy Council Members



Meet Cleotilde (Coty) Gonzalez, a dedicated Research Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Her work shines a light on the fascinating field of human decision making. In the Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory, which she directs, models are employed to enhance training and refine decision-making skills.


Hazhir Rahmandad is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Hi research focuses on organizational dynamics and public health with an emphasis on expanding the dynamic modeling toolbox through parameter estimation and validation methods.

He looks forward to engaging with the policy council as the ISDC2024 Program Chair and in an advisory capacity.

 

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Call for Presenters: Seminar Series

We at the System Dynamics Society are continually seeking vibrant and knowledgeable presenters for our ongoing Seminar Series. As we unfold the calendar, there’s always a place for more insights, experiences, and expertise to enrich our global community. The floor is open for ideas throughout the year, keeping our series diverse and timely. These seminars are our most popular events and range from 60 (at roundtables) to 560 attendees (at free hands-on seminars).

Present a Seminar

We are seeking dynamic and engaging speakers to contribute to our diverse lineup of events, which cover a wide range of topics including modeling, decision-making, sustainability, and public policy. Our seminars are designed to be accessible to both beginners and experienced audiences and provide a valuable forum for learning, sharing, and collaborating on the application of System Dynamics to real-world challenges.

Reasons to Present

  • Showcase Your Work: Present your research, run a workshop, or lead a hands-on practice session to a global audience.
  • Network and Connect: Engage with academics, practitioners, and students from around the world.
  • Strengthen the Field: Contribute to the promotion of systems thinking and System Dynamics, and help develop skills to effectively apply these approaches.

How to Submit Your Proposal

Submit your seminar proposal anytime by completing the form below. Provide details about your proposed topic, format, and availability. Remember, all seminars and recordings are free for members, and the general public is welcome to join for a nominal fee.

Types of Seminars You Can Lead

Learn more about our type of Seminars and submit your proposal:

Single Presentation: for practitioners and academics who want to showcase their work to our community. We’re looking for high-quality work, especially work with positive outcomes applying System Dynamics and/or systems thinking for better decision-making. For example, Andrew Jones shared his valuable Top 10 Tips to Engage People With a System Dynamics Model with over 250 participants.

Panel: formed by two or more presenters about a single topic aiming at a discussion and exchange of ideas. This format is great for demonstrating the adaptability of System Dynamics in solving complex problems. The System Dynamics for Climate Change Mitigation panel gathered together presenters with different perspectives from Climate Interactive, Millenium Institute, and The Climate Initiative at Umass Lowell.

Workshop: help our community to develop specific skills and engage in intensive discussion on a particular subject. At the beginning of 2021, we had a workshop on Group Model Building Online where a group of researchers shared their experience and materials.

Hands-on Practice: guide our audience on a step-by-step practice. Help them develop specific skills such as basics of System Dynamics modeling, Causal Loop Diagramming, use of software features, and much more. With over 560 attendees, the Introduction to Modelling Process seminar allowed participants to take their first steps in System Dynamics modeling.

Roundtable: we want to hear the opinions of our members on several topics. The roundtable setting helps us give voice to all attendees and hone our efforts on what’s most important for our community. With the help of facilitators and the Miro platform, we were able to gather opinions on How to Get System Dynamics into University Programs.

Sponsor a Seminar

We are continuously looking for sponsors to make more seminars accessible to everyone. Contact us at office@systemdynamics.org if your organization is interested in sponsoring a seminar. Join us in making the System Dynamics Society Seminar Series a ceaseless source of learning, sharing, and community building!

Submit your ideas using the form below:

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Honoring Excellence: A Glimpse into the Awards of the International System Dynamics Conference

Honoring Excellence: A Glimpse into the Awards of the International System Dynamics Conference

The International System Dynamics Conference brings together experts, practitioners, and students to exchange ideas, showcase real-world applications, and celebrate outstanding achievements in the field. Every year, the System Dynamics Society recognizes exceptional contributions through a range of awards. In this article, we shed light on the various awards presented during the conference and the brilliant minds that earned these honors in the recent edition.

System Dynamics Applications Award

This award is presented for the best real-world application of System Dynamics. ReThink Health’s System Dynamics model has made notable strides in the health sector, being integrated by over 20 universities and 52 federal agencies. Over 2000 individuals have connected with its network, formulating long-term, equitable recovery plans based on this approach.

Winners: ReThink Health – Bobby Milstein, Jack Homer, Gary Hirsch, Elliott Fisher, Rebecca Niles, Kris Wile, Chris Soderquist, and John Sterman.

Outstanding Service Award 

The Outstanding Service Award recognizes individuals for their exceptional volunteer contributions to the Society over an extended period of time. Rod MacDonald, with his vast 25-year experience in developing simulation models, has been invaluable, especially with his contributions to the Modeling Assistance Workshop and the Short-Term Modeling Assistance program.

Winner: Rod MacDonald (left)

Dana Meadows Award

Named after Dana Meadows, this award celebrates top-tier student work in System Dynamics. Ann Osi and co-author Navid Ghaffarzadegan’s research has clearly demonstrated the excellence the award seeks to honor.

Winner: Ann Osi

Paper: Data-Informed Parameter Estimation in Behavioral Epidemic Models

Abstract: Behavioral epidemic models integrate disease spread and human response. This study found that estimating behavior parameters is less accurate in early pandemic stages. Better estimates come after the pandemic’s first peak and with more behavior data. Traditional SEIR models can be misleading, fitting well initially but erring later on. The research underscores the intricacies of calibrating behavior-disease models.

Early Career Health Paper Award

Aimed at acknowledging extraordinary papers addressing health topics by students or recent graduates. The paper by Samuel Allen, Andrada Tomoaia-Cotisel, Rod MacDonald, and Jason M. Etchegaray was outstanding in this category.

Winners: Samuel Allen and Andrada Tomoaia-Cotisel

Paper: Implementing and Sustaining Healthcare Quality Improvement: A Case Study Examining Feedback Structure and Dynamics

Abstract: Quality improvement (QI) in healthcare goes beyond simple feedback. A case study in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit from 2015-2019 developed a unit-based approach (UBA) for front-line QI training, leading to improved quality. Mixed methods simulation modeling documented the feedback and context of this intervention. While a simplified feedback structure can explain many situations, sustaining UBA’s effectiveness demands new management and system design innovations.

Honorable Mentions

The honorable mentions spotlight commendable efforts and innovative approaches that greatly contribute to the field. Their work exemplifies dedication, and innovation, and showcases potential future leaders in the domain.

Zeynep Hasgul and Alireza Akhavan – Dana Meadows Award and Health Award
Health-related Quality of Life of Patients Receiving Immunotherapy: Modeling Analysis (Q-PRIMA Study)

Rachel Thompson – Dana Meadows Award
A qualitative system dynamics model of overdose bystander behavior in the context of Connecticut’s Good Samaritan Laws

Nabeela Mumtaz – Health Award
Estimates of the Reproduction Number for Seasonal Influenza Infectious Disease in the European Region from 2012 to 2016

Zahra Shams Esfandabadi – Dana Meadows Award
The Future of Carsharing Services and its Role in Sustainable Transportation

 

Barry Richmond Scholarship Award

Established in 2007 by isee systems to honor and continue the legacy of its founder, Barry Richmond. It is presented to a deserving Systems Thinking/System Dynamics practitioner whose work demonstrates a desire to expand the field or to apply it to current social issues.

Winners: Junlai Zhang

Paper: Using System Dynamics modeling to forecast China’s population until 2060 to visualize the aging and shrinking population trends

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From Bergen to Global: UiB’s System Dynamics Group

From Bergen to Global: UiB’s System Dynamics Group

The System Dynamics Group, an autonomous research group at the University of Bergen (UiB) was established in 1971 by professor emeritus Svein Nordbotten. Inspired by the work of Jay W. Forrester, Nordbotten taught a course called Cybernetics and System Dynamics at UiB and collaborated with other scientists at the Christian Michelsen Institute. That motivated several graduate students to write theses using the SD methodology. Years later, a former student (and now professor emeritus), Pål Davidsen went to MIT as a Visiting Scholar and worked with Forrester and other prominent system dynamicists on several projects. Not long after returning to Bergen, Davidsen was asked by the university president to establish an international Master’s and Ph.D. program in System Dynamics, and the first students enrolled in the fall semester of 1995.

 The System Dynamics Group at UiB has since grown into the European hub for System Dynamics, hosting several visiting scholars and Ph.D. students each year. The group, chaired by Professor Birgit Kopainsky, is presently made up of three faculty members, several doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, research assistants, and a sizeable cohort of master’s students. Specializing in System Dynamics modeling, the group is involved in numerous research projects related to sustainability and climate change adaption, common pool resource management, socioecological development and justice, and public health policy analysis.

 

Master’s in System Dynamics

The System Dynamics Group offers a two-year master’s degree program. It is the most extensive master’s program in the world for System Dynamics and is taught entirely in English. Over the two years, students are provided with the tools and knowledge required to become competent system dynamicists. With an emphasis on quantitative simulation modeling, our courses are designed to train students to diagnose dynamic social problems, build explanatory system dynamics models, derive dynamics of the system by way of simulation, and analyze the system’s performance for policy development. This program focuses on System Dynamics methodology, which is domain agnostic, allowing students from virtually any disciplinary background to be admitted. The master’s program is tuition-free for Norwegian and EU students. As of 2023, non-EU students have to pay tuition fees to the University. 

Additionally, we jointly founded the European Master Program in System Dynamics (EMSD) in 2010 with Radboud University in the Netherlands, the University of Palermo in Italy, and the New University of Lisbon in Portugal. EMSD students begin their studies in Bergen with us, where they are introduced to quantitative modelling in the first semester. In the second and third semesters, they move on to partner universities. They have the option to return to Bergen to write their theses in the final semester. Students pay tuition fees to each university they are enrolled in.

The System Dynamics Group at UiB has been a proud sponsor of the System Dynamics Society and the International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) over the years. We have been program chairs several times, the organizing chair for ISDC 2000 and 2020 and we will organize the next ISDC 2024 in Bergen.

Each year, a sizeable number of our students and faculty participate and present their work at the conference. High-quality work from our staff and Master’s students has been recognized by the System Dynamics Society with numerous awards. Most recently, Pei Shan Loo was awarded the Lupina Young Researchers Award and Ismay Bax received Honorable Mention for the Dana Meadows Award in ISDC 2022. Our students have also been selected as Plenary Speakers for the Student-Organized Colloquium for their outstanding work: Mahla Rashidan (2021 & 2022), Ismay Bax (2022), and Anna Siemer (2023). Congratulations to our students! We are committed to continue nurturing future talent within the System Dynamics community. 

Contact Us

Website: uib.no/rg/dynamics

Email: advise.sysdyn@uib.no

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Consideo’s Insight into the Global Energy Transition: A Systems Perspective

Consideo’s Insight into the Global Energy Transition: A Systems Perspective

Complexities of Energy Transition
The global energy transition is a complex challenge. The development of technology, the need for resources, the depletion of high-grade materials and their cost implications, the variances of weather, the different strategies varying the degree of electrification vs. the use of (imported) synthetic fuels, the need for capacities related to the path of transition and the added need with a time delay for repowering of older installations, the developments of demands, etc., all contributes to a bandwidth of possible scenarios including some fatal system archetypes.

Our Simulation Model and Its Reception
A couple of years ago, Consideo developed, in a larger consortium, a simulation model on the global energy transition using data e.g. from the International Energy Agency and its World Energy Outlook. While the implications for the need for materials were well received by the environmental agency of Germany, the notion that we need underutilized capacities for electrolysis (and for repowering) that will not be realized by market forces alone, back then wasn’t.

The Potential of Renewable Energy
It is a simple thing to understand that renewable energy is best utilized by direct electrical use. And since we have those periods without wind or sunshine, we should rely on a grid connecting sunny and windy areas, and on re-electrification from hydrogen that we can produce from surpluses of energy production when the wind and sunshine are there.

The Debate Over Hydrogen and Electrification
While the production of hydrogen implies losses of efficiency, many people nevertheless argue that hydrogen and synthetic fuels (they have no idea where all the carbon for that should come from) would be easier than the widespread electrification of sectors like transportation, housing, or industry. So, from a global perspective, we need a maximum of electrification, leaving the hydrogen for industrial processes, the chemical industry, ammonia for ship transportation, and re-electrification. Nevertheless, some countries don’t want wind energy in their backyards and argue for the import of hydrogen and the use of synthetic fuels. That’s a “shifting the burden to the intervenor” archetype.

Germany’s New Energy Strategy
But now the German government plans for new gas power plants that in the future can re-electrify hydrogen. Additionally, they argue that those underutilized capacities need to be subsidized. Against this logical concept, two kinds of counterarguments are out: first, the argument, that we need no gas power plants or use of hydrogen but more renewables; and second, that we should import energy from France’s nuclear power plants and not become independent using our surpluses of renewable energy. Well, both counterarguments are wrong.

Here is a grey paper featuring the model: The ToC and the Global Energy Transition

Blog Author: Kai Neumann, neumann@consideo.com

About Consideo

Consideo is a recognized leader in the field of systems thinking and modeling. As a sponsor of the 2023 System Dynamics Society, they have showcased their dedication to promoting understanding and education in System Dynamics. Led by Kai Neumann, Consideo offers a range of tools and solutions designed to help individuals and organizations visualize and manage complex systems, facilitating informed decision-making processes. Drawing from their wealth of experience and expertise, their products, such as the renowned IMODELER, are a testament to their commitment to excellence in systems thinking. Learn more about their innovative solutions at Consideo’s website

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A Digital Twin Business Model in 40 Hours

Though long past the date when I should have ‘retired’, I just can’t resist interesting projects, like the one a new friend brought me a few weeks ago. It concerns a small but fast-growing B2B business, providing a management-system SAAS platform for a certain type of real estate company.

The business model is essentially simple. The company gets revenue from [a] implementation fees as clients come on board and [b] continuing SAAS fees from live clients already using the system. Operating costs are dominated by staff in the various teams – sales and marketing, platform development, client onboarding, and customer support. Then there are the costs of running the SAAS platform and the usual overheads of finance, HR, and premises.

The initial problem? … Clients have questions or problems with the platform, so raise support-request ‘tickets’. A support team works to resolve those tickets. Although they already struggle to cope with the rate these tickets arrive, the business expects to double in size this year, and keeps adding new features to the system! So, you may say – hire more staff! But it takes months to learn about the platform and how to resolve client issues, so new staff contribute little to solving tickets and need to be coached while they are learning by the very people who are already struggling to cope.

Meanwhile, new clients must be ‘on-boarded’ – getting them on the system and learning how to use it. But the onboarding team, too, can’t cope with the rate of new clients and the ever-growing feature-set, so those new clients ‘go live’ with too little understanding of the system, so they raise still more tickets. Even after onboarding, ‘novice’ clients continue to raise 3x the rate of tickets of more mature clients.

The wider system. The business has captured the most valuable potential clients over the last 4 years – those with the largest property portfolios, the greatest need for the platform, the highest revenue potential, but also the greatest demand for platform functionality. So the platform developers are under constant pressure to build and release new features. And that pressure means features are released with too many bugs, which leads to more support tickets.

Those tickets come in 3 types – easy “How do I do this?” questions; complaints about things that don’t work; and more complex implementation challenges. So the support team is split in 3 groups too. The overload for each team means that backlogs of unsolved tickets build up. When those backlogs get unacceptable, they have to run “ticket-bashing” sessions when anyone who can help gives up extra time to clear the backlogs. And those sessions are happening more and more often. This puts pressure on the staff, risking a rise in turnover and further loss of even the limited support capacity that exists.

The onboarding team already struggles with existing features, and all new features come with unknown bugs, in spite of developers’ efforts to find them. So clients get new features OK, but fall over more bugs as a result … so the support team gets more support tickets to handle … but they don’t understand the new features either.

And, because the best clients have already been won, the business has no choice but to go for the mid-and small-scale clients. But those clients are harder to win – they have to be made aware, have the platform’s functionality explained, and have to be helped over the challenges that they fear will arise if they adopt it. And then those smaller clients deliver less value when they are won! And they don’t have great staff resources themselves, so they generate proportionally more support requests. Except that they don’t need the fancy extra functionality demanded by the top-range clients.

What my friend needs. First, he needed to just get a handle on the growing imbalance between the flow of support tickets and the capacity of the service team to deal with those requests. So that’s what the initial model did. It showed just how badly the problem would escalate over coming weeks if nothing changed, and pointed to solutions.

But he wanted more than just a working model of the support team’s workload because he could see that was just a symptom of a more complex set of issues, encompassing the whole business, all the way from initial marketing right through to the product development and staffing that has to happen. And of course, he and his colleagues need to understand not only where business development and performance may be going, but the financial implications as well.

So he needs a complete “digital twin” business model, playing out how everything in the system changes over time – platform IT development; marketing and partner acquisition, promotion and sales to 3 client segments, client on-boarding and support; all that ticket-handling across 3 teams; the staff development for all these activities; and all the financial results. And because things change constantly, typical quarterly results and monthly management reports are no use – he needs a model showing how the business is working week by week.

To understand what is going on, we need history – and because the issues surfacing today were triggered by events way back in the past, we need a model that starts in 2021 and goes out to 2024 and beyond.

What we did. My friend is the perfect client – he really “gets” how a living business model works, how powerful it could be, and how to guide its development. And he is willing to put in the hard yards to chase down the data needed. (At least this business has the data, which is often not true. In those cases, we have to estimate and triangulate between known items to fill in the gaps).

So I actually had the lighter load in all this. I spent some 40 hours building the model with the client’s guidance. He put in twice that effort to get that data and figure out with colleagues what had really been happening.

BUT we did it! – a complete digital-twin model that they can now use to work out priorities and policies to fix the current challenges and get the business in a state where it can grow, sustainably, into the future. And do so without the pressures and crises that currently risk overwhelming it. And all by relentlessly following the 4 steps of the strategy dynamics method you can discover in our online course on how to build dynamic business models:

Dynamic Business Modeling

An online course that guides you in creating a quantified, simulated “digital twin” of your business, highlighting inter-dependencies and feedback points.

Society members get a 20% discount

Learn More

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2023 PwC Mark Paich Hackathon Highlights

The System Dynamics Society and PwC US joined forces to hold a hackathon event that brought together practitioners, researchers, and students passionate about the System Dynamics methodology. The 2023 PwC Mark Paich Hackathon explored two pressing challenges for our society with a unique lens, fostering diverse ideas, innovation, and creativity.

We had a record of 43 participants from all over the world. These enthusiastic participants formed 18 dynamic teams, showcasing innovation and global collaboration.

The two-day hybrid event held on July 21-22, 2023 attracted participants from varied backgrounds, including academia, industry, and government, who all desired to apply System Dynamics techniques to real-world problems. The challenge themes were Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) and Individualized Healthcare, which prompted participants to consider the potential benefits and significant risks of these leading technologies if mismanaged.


A Tribute to Mark Paich

The 2023 PwC Mark Paich Hackathon honored Mark Paich’s contributions to System Dynamics. He established PwC US’s simulation and modeling practice and was a renowned modeler and mentor. With a Ph.D. in System Dynamics from MIT, Mark taught at Colorado College and returned to MIT Sloan as a visiting lecturer. He received the System Dynamics Society’s Forrester Award and Applications Award.


The Winning Team

The winning entry, titled “Privacy and Wearables: Addressing Pitfalls of Data Sharing with Insurance Providers,” was an insightful piece from Team MITSD, comprising members Celia Stafford, Cathy DiGennaro, and José Luiz Lopez.

The team examined the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating wearables into US healthcare. These devices offer real-time health insights that could shift healthcare from reactive to preventive. However, sharing this data with insurance providers can pose privacy concerns. The team proposed informed consent, transparency, and enhanced cybersecurity to balance Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) with patient confidentiality. They emphasized the importance of trust in the success of this integration, advocating that insurance companies prioritize health improvements over profit maximization.

In an interview with the victors, the enthusiasm and collaboration that defined their experience was palpable. Celia fondly recalled:

“I think it’s the biggest product I’ve ever put together in that short timeline… having that kind of deadline just encouraged creativity and it also encouraged hard work in a way that was fun!”

Their collaborative experience and ability to maintain a clear direction amidst the challenge set them apart. They won a $3,000 cash prize from the SDS and 1-year subscription of AnyLogic Professional (valued at $10,000), courtesy of AnyLogic.

Key Insight:

Wearables for remote patient monitoring can have transformative potential for proactive health management but data sharing concerns may arise, particularly with insurance companies. Policies, including regulatory interventions, intermittent data collection, and overhauling the healthcare system, are needed to confirm the responsible use of data and public trust.

Downloads: Model | Presentation | Policy Brief

Watch their presentation here.

 


Runners Up

The runner-up team, Semper Relaxo, comprising Ignacio Martinez-Moyano, Timothy Clancy, and Asmeret Naugle, presented an insightful work titled “Evaluating the Hype-Harm-Control Dynamics of Disruptive Technologies Including Runaway Breakout Risks”.

The team delved into the societal dynamics of generative artificial intelligence (AI) over a 10-year horizon. As generative AI hype increases, societal benefits and harm accumulate. The balance between hype and harm determines the controls put on AI. Unbalanced early and excessive societal harm creates incentives to implement controls that limit the growth of generative AI. Although hype-harm-control cycles are common to all disruptive technologies, the team also explored the unique dynamics of self-generating technologies like AI to ‘break out’ of alignment and escape control under extreme conditions.

In an interview with Semper Relaxo, they reflected on their intense, yet enjoyable experience of the competition, combining both seriousness and humor in their approach. Tim Clancy shared:

“If you have 48 hours, you have to think from the gut… we were just go go go and that sometimes is useful to get out of your head and just create something.”

The team also highlighted the invaluable contribution of humor, crediting memes for giving them a unique edge. They won a cash prize of $1,500 from the SDS.

Key Insight

New technology adoption, especially AI, might cause harm and disruptions in hype cycles. The timing and intensity of these harms determine societal and governmental reactions. There is a potential risk of AI autonomously coding and causing unchecked societal harm. However, the Hype Harm Control simulation offers a promising framework to study the tradeoffs between hype, harm, and control.

Access model and other resources here. Watch their presentation here.

 

Third Place

The Systems4Health team, consisting of Fatemeh Ehteshami and Pei Shan Loo, secured third place.  Their team presented a model focused on using mobile health technology (M-health) to improve hypertension management and treatment adherence.

Their work, titled “Leveraging Mobile Health Technology to Improve Hypertension Management and Treatment Adherence”, highlighted M-health’s transformative power in providing personalized data to help patients monitor their blood pressure and enhance treatment adherence. While acknowledging potential benefits, they emphasized challenges such as health disparities and stressed the importance of equitable access to M-health. The team concluded that inclusive adoption of M-health is crucial for effective hypertension management and reducing cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks.

They won a cash prize of $500 from the SDS.

Key Insight

Mobile health technology can help manage hypertension by providing personalized data, encouraging treatment adherence, and enabling remote patient monitoring. Patients can actively manage their hypertension, which can lead to timely interventions and better cardiovascular disease prevention. However, it is crucial to address health inequalities and enable equitable access to this technology for all patients, in order to achieve holistic hypertension care and effective CVD outcomes.

Access the model and other resources here. Watch their presentation here.

 

Fatemeh Ehteshami with Lyle Wallis (PwC)

Acknowledgments

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to PwC for their generous sponsorship, which provided an invaluable platform for innovative thinking and collaboration. Special thanks are also due to our esteemed judges:

John Ansah, Case Western Reserve University
Rod MacDonald, James Madison University
Corey Peck, Ontura
Steve Peterson, Dartmouth, The Peterson Group
Nasim Sabounchi, City University of New York

Their dedication and thoughtful feedback played an instrumental role in the success of this hackathon.

We’d also like to thank the software providers for making available free versions of their products for the hackathon teams: isee systems, AnyLogic, Powersim, and Ventana.

 

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A Close-Up on Our New Look

A Close-Up on Our New Look

We are excited to reveal our new logo and branding, embodying the System Dynamics Society’s values and vision for the future. The looped arrows with an S curve symbolize growth, change over time, and commitment to raising complex systems awareness.

But what went into creating this fresh visual identity?

The Design Process: A Call for Creativity

In November 2021, the Society launched a call for designs, encouraging members to submit their concepts for an updated logo that would not only modernize the existing one but also better represent the society’s identity. We received 25 submissions from our members, which the marketing committee meticulously reviewed before narrowing down to a few options for presentation to a focus group. This focus group provided valuable feedback, and together, we selected the most fitting option. The policy council of the System Dynamics Society then voted on the final version of the logo, which stood out for its contemporary design and strong ties to the society’s identity and values.

Honoring Our Roots

In developing the new branding, we aimed to maintain a sense of familiarity with the previous logo, designed by Jack Pugh and George Richardson in 1984. George also contributed to the new logo’s design, offering various suggestions. We retained similar colors from the earlier design: two shades of grey and a bold red. These colors resemble those in the MIT logo, which holds significance since the System Dynamics Society was founded at MIT by Jay W. Forrester – a pioneering computer engineer and systems scientist. By preserving these colors, we honor the Society’s origins while refreshing its image for today and beyond.

Conveying System Dynamics Principles

The revamped logo showcases two arrows forming a loop, with the arrows’ shape creating an S curve. The right arrow is slightly tilted, allowing the S curve to progressively widen and generate a sense of growth. The left arrow is grey, while the right arrow features a bold red color. This design symbolizes the System Dynamics Society’s mission to expand the field, unify global endeavors, and enhance awareness and comprehension of complex systems phenomena.

Beyond Aesthetics: A Commitment to Mission and Values

Our new branding goes beyond a mere visual overhaul. It reflects the Society’s unwavering commitment to its mission and values. Moreover, by involving members in the logo’s creation, we have fostered a sense of ownership and engagement within our community.

Inspiring the Future

We hope that the updated logo and branding will motivate members of the Society and the wider System Dynamics community to keep pushing the boundaries of this fascinating field. Ultimately, the new branding is a testament to the Society’s dedication to its mission and values, and we eagerly anticipate how it will propel our impact and growth in the years ahead.

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Q: What inspired the creation of the new logo?

A: The new logo was designed to modernize the existing one, better represent the Society’s identity, and embody its mission to expand the field and enhance global understanding of complex systems.

Q: Will this be the logo forever?

A: It will definitely be the logo tomorrow.

Q: How were members involved in the logo design process?

A: Members were invited to submit their design ideas, and the marketing committee reviewed all submissions before presenting a few options to a focus group for feedback and final selection.

Q: Why was it important to maintain some elements from the old logo?

A: Retaining certain elements, such as the color scheme, helps preserve a sense of familiarity and pays homage to the Society’s roots at MIT

Q: Why are there two arrows in the new logo?

A: The two arrows represent the Society’s mission to unify global efforts and create a continuous feedback loop for advancing the understanding of complex systems.

Q: Why was the color red chosen for one of the arrows?

A: The red color was chosen to maintain consistency with the previous logo and to symbolize the connection to MIT, where the System Dynamics Society was founded.

Q: I’ve spotted something that still has the old logo…

Thanks, eagle eyes! Let us know and we’ll get paintbrushes out.

Q: Will the new logo and branding be applied to all official Society materials and communications?

A: Yes, the new logo and branding will be consistently used across all official Society materials, communications, and platforms to reinforce the Society’s identity and commitment to its mission and values.

Q: What does the S curve in the new logo represent?

A: The S curve in the logo symbolizes the progressive growth and expansion of the field of system dynamics.

Celebrating Women’s International Day

Over the past several decades, more women have become part of the System Dynamics field, greatly increasing gender diversity in our discipline. We have many amazing, inspiring, brilliant, and visionary female leaders. Today we highlight women in the field who have published books related to System Dynamics and systems thinking, although this list is not exhaustive.

Sustainability | Environment

Systems Thinking

Pre-College Education | Children’s Books | Teacher’s Manuals

Applied System Dynamics and Systems Thinking | Methodology | Organizational Change

Historical

  • Deborah Andersen and David Andersen: Theories of Decision Making: An Annotated Bibliography.
  • MIT Artificial Intelligence Group: John McCarthy, Robert Brayton, Daniel Edwards, Phyllis Fox, Louis Hodes, David Luckham, Klim Maling, David Park, Stephen Russel: LISP I: Programmer’s Manual
    • In 1959, Phyllis Fox and Alexander Pugh wrote the first version of DYNAMO (DYNAmic MOdels) and the system dynamics language that became the industry standard for over thirty years).

Use the button below If you’d like to add an author and/or book to our bibliography:

Donella Meadows

“We, humans, are smart enough to have created complex systems and amazing productivity; surely we are also smart enough to make sure that everyone shares our bounty, and surely we are smart enough to sustainably steward the natural world upon which we all depend.”

Donella (Dana) Meadows was an inspiring leader, scholar, writer, teacher, a Pew Scholar in Conservation and Environment, and a MacArthur Fellow, and was one of the most influential environmental thinkers of the twentieth century. After receiving a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard, she joined a team at MIT applying the relatively new tools of System Dynamics to global problems. While Donella Meadows researched and wrote about global problems, she herself also practiced local solutions, a living personification of Rene Dubos’ famous expression, “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

Donella’s ideas, insights, teachings, environmental leadership, and belief in the capacity of humans to create a sustainable world continue to inspire and motivate us today.

Visit the Donella Meadows Project by the Academy for Systems Change to learn more about Dana’s life and work.

Donella Meadows wrote and co-authored several books, including the following: 

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Thinking in Systems A Primer
Beyond the Limits by Donella Meadows. Sustainability and climate change.