document title
Andrea Frank
back next

John Sterman
Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management Director of the MIT System Dynamics Group

What are you working on?

We build formal simulation models to help address important challenges in business and public policy. But before I get into the details, I think I should fi rst say a few words about system dynamics. System dynamics is an interdisciplinary fi eld that was created here at MIT by Jay Forrester. Jay’s background was in engineering and, unlike some theorists who simply write about how complex systems work, he actually worked as an engineer on important real world projects such as stabilizing radar systems on ships in the Second World War and developing computer systems for strategic air defense. So he came to the table with a very pragmatic attitude, largely conditioned by his experience growing up on a cattle ranch in western Nebraska, where if you didn’t fix something yourself, it didn’t get done.

That pragmatic attitude still characterizes our field. One of the things that attracts me to this work is that it’s not roped in by the traditional disciplinary boundaries in academia. I’ve worked on a wide range of issues, and I’ve found that diversity to be not only intellectually stimulating, but also a basis for better understanding the pressing problems we face in this world.

If you think about the way business schools are organized, they are much like companies with separate departments ––finance, marketing, operations, and so forth. The difficulty is that managers don’t have operations problems, fi nancial problems, and marketing problems. They just have problems. And one of the reasons they have these problems is that they continue to divide up the world into these categories. We live in a world of interaction and complexity. You can’t create a high-performing organization if you’re only focused on optimizing the pieces.

[ ... ]
for full text see VISIONS - MIT Interviews book

Andrea Frank