Training in Systems Thinking and System Dynamics as an Effective Way to Tackle Complexity in the Management of Organisations
Keywords:Systems Thinking, System Dynamics, management of complex organizations, learning processes
The biggest challenge for today’s organisations is to address the growing complexity of their internal and external environment while gaining a competitive advantage. To do this, the leaders of the organisations must be able to understand this complexity through the knowledge of the environment and the implementation of a governance system based on a decision-making process that considers the enormous amount of data available. Such data must lead to the availability of information that guides the organisations themselves in the learning process.
Sustainable development requires organisations to rethink their goals and/or business models, with effects on their day-to-day activities. Pursuing to become more sustainable is not only a need for marketing reasons but also an opportunity for growth and alignment with emerging trends. However, managing the complexity of sustainability is not straightforward and requires cognitive and practical tools that are able to capture and jointly consider a wide variety of interrelated factors.
Modelling the processes that characterise complex organisations is not an easy task. The aim of this contribution is thus to identify a methodology that helps managers in tackling the challenges that organisations have to adopt when faced with a growing complexity of their internal and external environment, and that might help managers at all levels when analysing various business and management situations, to account for non-linearities, path-dependency and time lags, and that may allow also for organisational and social learning.
The study shows how the System Dynamics approach, identified as a methodology for modelling and simulation, is able to lead to the development of effective skills and strategic learning for the management of organisations and hence support the dynamic evaluations of strategies and performance.
The System Thinking and System Dynamics approach may prove a useful combined tool for next-generation decision-makers, but this approach needs to be understood and learned in order to develop the necessary skills. In particular, this study will show the results of a test conducted with the collaboration of undergraduate university students, who have attended a course about System Dynamics, in order to test their ability to understand the dynamics underlying counterintuitive system behaviour.
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