Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science

Editors: Robert A. Meyers (Editor-in-Chief)

System Dynamics, The Basic Elements of

  • George P. Richardson
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-30440-3_536

Definition of the Subject

System dynamics is a computer‐aided approach to theory‐building, policy analysis, and strategic decision support emergingfrom an endogenous point of view [18,20]. Itapplies to dynamic problems arising in complex social, managerial, economic, or ecological systems – literally any dynamic systemscharacterized by interdependence, mutual interaction, information feedback, and circular causality.


The field of system dynamics developed initially from the work of Jay W. Forrester. His seminal book Industrial Dynamics[7] is still a significant statement of philosophy and methodology in the field. Within tenyears of its publication, the span of applications grew from corporate and industrial problems to include the management of research anddevelopment, urban stagnation and decay, commodity cycles, and the dynamics of growth in a finite world. It is now applied in economics,public policy, environmental studies, defense, theory‐building in social science,...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access


  1. 1.
    Abdul-Hamid T, Madnick S (1991) Software project dynamics: anintegrated approach. Prentice Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alfeld LE, Graham AK (1976) Introduction to urban dynamics. PegasusComunications, WalthamGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ashby H (1956) An Introduction to cybernetics. Chapman & Hall,LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fiddaman TS (2002) Exploring policy options with a behavioralclimate‐economy model. Syst Dyn Rev 18(2):243–267Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ford A (1990) Estimating the impact of efficiency standards onuncertainty of the northwest electric system. Oper Res 38(4):580–597Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ford A (1999) Modeling the environment: an introduction to systemdynamics of environmental systems. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Forrester JW (1961) Industrial dynamics. MIT Press,Cambridge. Reprinted by Pegasus Communications, WalthamGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Forrester JW (1968) Market growth as influenced by capital investment. Ind Manag Rev (MIT, now Sloan Manag Rev) 9(2):83–105. Reprinted widely, e. g., Richardson [21]Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Forrester JW (1969) Urban dynamics. MIT Press, Cambridge. Reprinted byPegasus Communications, WalthamGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Homer JB (1992) A system dynamics model of national cocaineprevalence. Syst Dyn Rev 9(1):49–78Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Maani KE, Cavana RY (2000) Systems thinking and modelling:understanding change and complexity. Pearson Education, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Milling P (1996) Modeling innovation processes for decision supportand management simulation. Syst Dyn Rev 12(3):211–234Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    John DW, Morecroft JDW (1985) Rationality in the analysis ofbehavioral simulation models. Manag Sci 31(7):900–916Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Morecroft JDW, Sterman JD (eds) (1994) Modeling for learningorganizations. System dynamics series. Pegasus Communications, WalthamGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Moxnes E (1998) Not only the tragedy of the commons: misperceptionsof bioeconomics. Manag Sci 44(9):1234–1248Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Nicholis G, Prigogine I (1977) Self‐organization innonequilibrium systems: from dissipative structures to order through fluctuations. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Repenning NR (2001) Understanding fire fighting in new productdevelopment. J Prod Innov Manag 18(5):285–300Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Richardson GP (1991) System dynamics: simulation for policy analysisfrom a feedback perspective. In: Fishwick PA, Luker PA (eds) Qualitative simulation modeling and analysis. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Richardson GP (1991) Feedback thought in social science and systemstheory. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. Reprinted by Pegasus Communications, 1999Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Richardson GP (1996) System dynamics. In: Gass S, Harris C (eds) Theencyclopedia of operations research and management science. Kluwer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Richardson GP (ed) (1996) Modelling for management: simulation in support of systemsthinking. International library of management. Dartmouth, AldershotGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Richardson GP, Pugh AL III. (1981) Introduction to system dynamicsmodeling with DYNAMO. MIT Press, Cambridge. Reprinted by Pegasus Communications, WalthamGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Richmond B (1993) Systems thinking: critical thinking skills for the1990s and beyond. Syst Dyn Rev 9:(2)113–133Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Roberts EB (ed) (1978) Managerial applications of systemdynamics. MIT Press, Cambridge. Reprinted by Pegasus Communications, WalthamGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Saeed K (1991) Towards sustainabledevelopment: essays on system analysis of national policy. Progressive Publishers, LahoreGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Senge PM (1990)The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. Doubleday/Currency, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Sterman JD (1988) Modeling managerial behavior: misperceptions offeedback in a dynamic decision making experiment. Manag Sci 35(3):321–339Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Sterman JD (2001) Business dynamics: systems thinking and modelingfor a complex world. Irwin McGraw‐Hill, BostonGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Sterman JD, Sweeney LB (2002) Cloudy skies: assessing publicunderstanding of global warming. Syst Dyn Rev 18(2):207–240Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    System Dynamics Review. 1985–present. Wiley,ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Vennix JAM (1996) Group model building: facilitating team learningusing system dynamics. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    von Bertalanffy L (1968) General systems theory: foundations,development, applications. George Braziller, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Warren KD (2002) Competitive strategy dynamics. Wiley, UnitedKingdomGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Wolstenholme EF (1990) System enquiry: a system dynamicsapproach. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Wolstenholme EF (2003) Towards the definition and use of a coreset of archetypal structures in system dynamics. Syst Dyn Rev 19(1):7–26Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • George P. Richardson
    • 1
  1. 1.Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and PolicyUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA