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Book : Systems Thinking and Modelling: Understanding Change and Complexity (2007)

Systems Thinking and Modelling: Understanding Change and Complexity

Publisher:Pearson Higher Education

Author(s):Cavana, RobertMaani, Kambiz

Published: 2007 • ISBN: 1877371033 • 288 pages • Delivery Format: Hard Copy - Paperback

Available from: Amazon (DE)Amazon (UK)Amazon (US)

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Systems Thinking, System Dynamics offers readers a comprehensive introduction to the growing field of systems thinking and dynamic modelling and its applications. The book provides a self-contained and unique blend of qualitative and quantitative tools, step-by-step methodology, numerous examples and mini-cases, as well as extensive real-life case studies. The content mix and presentation style make the otherwise technical tools of systems thinking and system dynamics accessible to a wide range of people.

This book is intended as a text for students in diverse disciplines including business and management, as well as the social, environmental, health and applied sciences. It also has particular relevance for professionals from all backgrounds interested in understanding the dynamic behaviour of complex systems, change management, complex decision making, group problem solving and organisational learning.

Systems thinking and system dynamics provide a scientific paradigm, a set of tools and computer technology which can help explain the forces and dynamics that underlie change and complexity in business, political, social, economic and environmental systems.

Using systems thinking and system dynamics makes it possible to:

  • examine and foresee the consequences of policy and strategic decisions
  • implement fundamental solutions to chronic problems
  • avoid mistakenly interpreting symptoms as causes
  • test assumptions, hypotheses and scenarios
  • boost staff morale and improve productivity
  • improve the stability and performance of supply chains
  • find long-term sustainable solutions and avoid ‘fire-fighting’ behaviour.

The world grows more and more interconnected every day, and yet our institutions of commerce, education, health care, and government, by and large, remain firmly wedded to the reductionistic worldview of the Industrial Age. While more and more leaders in institutions of all sorts realise the importance of systems thinking, few have progressed far in practical application, often daunted by what seems like a steep technical learning curve. This is unfortunate, because it leads to either complete neglect or relegating the tools to technical experts, and fails the urgent need for re-thinking critical issues that must engage us all.

If you believe as I do that enhanced systems intelligence is the mandate for living together in our shrinking world, you will be delighted by Kambiz Maani’s and Bob Cavana’s new book, which takes a big step toward clarifying the underlying philosophy and demystifying the system dynamics method that has long been the core of our work.

Peter M. Senge, Society for Organizational Learning, MIT -Boston

New to this Edition

The slight change in the title from Systems Thinking and Modelling – Understanding Change and Complexity to Systems Thinking, System Dynamics – Managing Change and Complexity reflects two things:

  • (a) the field ‘System Dynamics’ has been brought directly into the title to reflect the flow in ideas and concepts from systems thinking to system dynamics; and
  • (b) the shift from understanding to managing conveys a shift of emphasis towards practice and a broader vision of not only understanding the dynamics of change and complexity, but also to provide tools and support to manage change and complexity.

Two new cases studies related to complex global and business issues and challenges, such as the bird flu pandemics and sustainable fishing practices, have been included.

An update and modernising of one case based on the dynamics of a hypothetical beer distribution system to reflect the rapidly growing field of supply chain management and modelling. Further background on the history and development of systems thinking and system dynamics.

Enhancements to the problem structuring phase of the five-phase systems thinking and modelling methodology based on system dynamics outlined in the book.

Additional technical material to assist readers to better understand the dynamic modelling process.

Further improvements to applications of systems thinking in organisations and an additional learning laboratory, the Brand Management Microworld, in Chapter 6, to aid in managerial learning of systemic and dynamic behaviour of complex systems undergoing change in uncertain environments.


This revised edition includes additional material on theory as well as several new cases.  The book comes with a CD-ROM that includes the simulation models presented in the book as well as the installation package for a save-disabled version of the iThink software and the installation program for Vensim PLE (Personal Learning Edition).

Content / Structure

Foreword to first edition

Preface to second edition

Part I

Chapter 1 Introducing systems thinking

Chapter 2 Systems methodology

Chapter 3 Causal loop modelling

Chapter 4 Dynamic modelling

Chapter 5 Scenario planning and modelling

Chapter 6 Microworlds and learning laboratory

Chapter 7 Systems thinking and the organisation

Part II

Case 1 Sustainability of the New Zealand fishing industry

Case 2 Dynamics of the bird flu pandemic

Case 3 Drivers of quality in health services

Case 4 Supply chain modelling of a beer distribution system

Case 5 Strategy development for a telecommunications business unit


Copyright 2007 by Pearson


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