Complexity and Systems Modelling
Research Group Leader: Josephine Musango
Effective decision-making and learning in a world of growing dynamic complexity requires new skills and tools to understand the structure of complex systems in which the problems faced are embedded. System dynamics was developed to address this need, and has today become an important part of public and private decision-making and policy design.
Challenging sustainability issues such as poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change, energy supply, healthcare, urbanization, growth of slums, economic instability, the water crisis, low quality education, environmental degradation, and so forth, are often seen as ‘problems’. But consider how these problems get addressed most of the time: people seem to have a built-in habit of immediately thinking about and expressing a potential solution the moment a problem is presented. This impulse often leads to no decision-making in complex problems where many (and often diverse) people are involved, all having different solutions in mind. This ‘problem-solution thinking’ is so natural and so strong that it even appears when somebody else is experiencing a problem.
System dynamics provides a practical tool to facilitate decision-making in complex, multi-person problem settings and disconnects the impulsive habit of immediately thinking about one (and only one) ‘solution’ when a problem is experienced. System dynamics provide insights into the root causes of the problem and the objectives sought, which then can be used to support arguments either in favour or against certain potential solutions. These arguments are made explicit and easily accessible in order to encourage a process of decision-making based on facts as much as possible.