By Khaled Gafaar
Located in Lisbon, Portugal
European Master in System Dynamics candidate 2017-2019
My first semester in EMSD was nothing short of a revelation. I’ve been reading in Systems Thinking since 2012, attempted to apply principles of The Fifth Discipline in an organizational setting (2013-2014,) and had to forsake my career in one of the largest FMCG companies in the world to pursue this Master’s!
In the modelling world, you can model the world, but would you really want to?
It is a general guideline in System Dynamics to build our models as concise and compact as possible, to avoid adding further complexity to the problem solving process. Beyond the issue of size, a series of interesting questions present themselves in regards to the dilemmas a modeller faces and the challenges faced by System Dynamics professionals.
If System Dynamics can solve our pressing problems caused by the same structures of our society that we have developed to make society work, would you really want to open Pandora’s box? Would an official, CEO, or policy maker pay an SD modeller to expose the suboptimal, or even corrupt structure at the heart of their problems?
Would you pay someone to slap you in the face? Why should your client do it then?
If someone told you that a government’s policy is directed by short-term gains at the expense of long-term sustenance due to the short re-election horizon, or that power struggles in an organizational setting dilute the effectiveness of new initiatives, would you truly want to hear that?
If someone told you that taking initiative has become a fad in your organization, where old projects are re-packed under “new initiatives” and people abuse such organizational direction to get promoted, would you easily accept such crude version of reality?
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
System Dynamics is a powerful tool, which requires a great deal of inquisitiveness and valor from both the modeller and the client for it to truly fulfil its potential, which perhaps is why System Dynamics is still not as widely used as its pioneers hoped it would be. It is threatening for anyone who benefits in one way or another from the status quo. Being a SD professional means you rattle all the wrong cages. You shatter the windows to let the light in!
In order to do that, I learned a few tips during my past couple of months at UiB:
- System Dynamics is a co-creative process between the modeller, and the client. A modeller is not an sage who carries The Truth. She merely maps what the stakeholders know and structures the knowledge to produce valuable insight.
- You know nothing, so don’t be ashamed of your ignorance and keep the positive attitude towards learning, it’s the only attitude by which you truly learn.
- It requires a sound ethical compass to genuinely add value using SD, otherwise you’ll take shortcuts, or give subpar recommendations. The root causes of your client’s problems will never be addressed, and SD will lose credibility.
- Facilitation is an art, which you employ so someone would pay you to slap them in the face!
- Newton’s third law applies in problem solving as much as the physical world, expect resistance but keep fighting the good fight!
About Khaled: Graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering, Khaled has worked as a solar engineer, high school teacher, and a supply chain associate manager before deciding to study System Dynamics full-time. “I believe everyone should pursue their passion; then obstacles cease to exist, and challenges become catharsis.”
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