Accessibility navigation

Should system dynamics be described as a 'hard' or 'deterministic' systems approach?

Lane, D. C. ORCID: (2000) Should system dynamics be described as a 'hard' or 'deterministic' systems approach? Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 17 (1). pp. 3-22. ISSN 1099-1743

Full text not archived in this repository.

It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.


This paper explores the criticism that system dynamics is a ‘hard’ or ‘deterministic’ systems approach. This criticism is seen to have four interpretations and each is addressed from the perspectives of social theory and systems science. Firstly, system dynamics is shown to offer not prophecies but Popperian predictions. Secondly, it is shown to involve the view that system structure only partially, not fully, determines human behaviour. Thirdly, the field's assumptions are shown not to constitute a grand content theory—though its structural theory and its attachment to the notion of causality in social systems are acknowledged. Finally, system dynamics is shown to be significantly different from systems engineering. The paper concludes that such confusions have arisen partially because of limited communication at the theoretical level from within the system dynamics community but also because of imperfect command of the available literature on the part of external commentators. Improved communication on theoretical issues is encouraged, though it is observed that system dynamics will continue to justify its assumptions primarily from the point of view of practical problem solving. The answer to the question in the paper's title is therefore: on balance, no.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Henley Business School > Business Informatics, Systems and Accounting
ID Code:38153
Uncontrolled Keywords:systems theory, systems thinking, information feedback, systems engineering, social theory, philosophy
Publisher:John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation