EURO Journal on Decision Processes

, Volume 3, Issue 3–4, pp 249–273 | Cite as

Collaborative problem structuring using MARVEL

  • Guido Arjan VeldhuisEmail author
  • Peter van Scheepstal
  • Etiënne Rouwette
  • Tom Logtens
Original Article


When faced with wicked and messy problems, practitioners can rely on a variety of problem structuring methods (PSMs). Although previous efforts have been made to combine such methods with simulation, currently, few exist that integrate a simulation capability within problem structuring. Our integrated approach named MARVEL (method to analyse relations between variables using enriched loops) shares some techniques with established methods such as the PSM SODA (strategic options development and analysis), system dynamics, and fuzzy cognitive maps. In addition, MARVEL uses causal loop diagrams that are enriched with qualitatively labelled values and standardized equations. This makes analyses of both model structure and behaviour possible. MARVEL also maintains the benefits of a PSM, such as being cognitively accessible for a wide variety of actors. The current paper presents MARVEL in technical terms, and discusses the similarities and differences it has with the aforementioned methods. We then present a case study that discusses how MARVEL was used in a collaborative setting to facilitate stakeholders’ assessment of tactical military actions during stabilization operations.


Problem structuring Group model building Wicked problems Messy problems Decision process Simulation 

Mathematics subject classification




We would like to thank the anonymous referees for their valuable comments that helped improving the exposition of this paper. Furthermore, we would like to thank the following individuals for their valuable contribution to the project discussed in this paper: Hannah Blackford (BAE Systems ATC), Dr Stephanie Blair (Opimian Ltd), Noel Corrigan (BAE Systems: CORDA), Lorraine Dodd (Cranfield University), Aletta Eikelboom (TNO), Jonathan P. Hinchliffe (UK MoD), Andrew Legatt (BAE Systems: ATC), Colin Mason (BAE Systems: CORDA), Rob Palfrey (Minerva SRM ltd), Andrew Rathmell (Aktis Strategy Ltd), Amanda Sibanda (BAE Systems: CORDA), and four participants from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg and EURO - The Association of European Operational Research Societies 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TNOThe HagueThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute for Management ResearchRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

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