Archive for the ‘System Design and Management’ Category

It’s Time for More System Dynamics

Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Beer Game Bullwhip Effect Causal Loop Diagram

During these extraordinary days, reading the news and observing the real-time data and responses from policymakers, I realized how valuable it would be to teach system dynamics in our schools and universities to understand the structural foundations and related variables in large complex problems.

Created by Forrester, system dynamics has its roots in control system theory but has been applied to complex problems in social science, economics, politics and business management. System dynamics plays an important role in helping decision-makers avoid suboptimal decisions, often referred to as policy resistance.

The concept is simple: When you introduce a disturbance into a natural system, it may initially be able to cope with stresses and shocks. However, over time the system may react to the disturbance – or exhibit policy resistance – which may seem counterintuitive because of the time delays associated with the reaction. Much of the art of system dynamics modeling is discovering and representing the feedback processes, which, along with stock-and-flow structures, causal-loop diagrams, time delays, and nonlinearities determine the dynamics of a system [Forrester, 1968; Saeed, 1982; Sterman, 2000].

The use of system dynamics helps overcome the limitations in people’s intuition about complex problems and their often logically incomplete mental models. The resulting insights are intended to help scientists, policymakers, the media and the public at large better understand complex multi-cause and multi-effect relationships.

System dynamics simulations can also help the population to understand problems, policies and implications over time, I think it would be a great tool in K-12 classrooms as well as in other professional fields. “Education has taught static snapshots of the real world. But the world’s problems are dynamic,” wrote Jay Forrester.

If you want to learn more about System Dynamics during the shelter-in-place order, the System Dynamic Society is collecting resources from members and others that provide a systems view on the COVID-19 pandemic, including a video from Tom Fiddaman exploring a simple epidemic model for a community confronting coronavirus.

Check also a couple of models I created in the past that related to today’s toilet paper bullwhip effect and how coronavirus threatens the seasonal farmworkers at the heart of the American food supply:

SDMs launch MIT Social Media Club

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

By Rafael Marañón-Abreu, SDM’10, and Azamat Abdymomunov, SDM’10. This article was published in the MIT SDM Pulse, Spring 2011

Editor’s note: Rafael Marañón-Abreu and Azamat Abdymomunov founded the MIT Social Media Club in September 2010. As of this writing, the club has 70 active members, including MIT students, faculty, and staff

MIT’s System Design and Management Program (SDM) has not only provided the advantages that we expected from a world-class program in engineering and management—it has also given us the opportunity tlearn about emerging technologies that can help people, corporations, and government work more effectively. Within this realm, social media stood out for us as an area worth further exploration.

Two members of SDM’s 2010 cohort, Rafael Marañón-Abreu, left, and Azamat Abdymomunov, teamed up to start the MIT Social Media Club

We cofounded the MIT Social Media Club to build connections with others at SDM and across the Institute and work collectively to understand the newest channels of communication—from communities such as Facebook and LinkedIn to blogs, Twitter feeds, and YouTube. As mid-career professionals returning to university, we believed that it was important to investigate social media and understand how to put them to work for individuals and organizations. We were surprised to learn that there was no social media club at MIT, so we decided to start one. We believed this could help us maximize our education and share past and present thoughts and experiences, while visualizing and creating our individual futures and simultaneously giving back to SDM and the MIT communities.

Founding the MIT Social Media Club was hard work, but applying many of the concepts we learned in our SDM courses helped us to execute this exciting startup. For example, our lessons from classes in system architecture, systems thinking, technology strategy, and project management helped us to look at how social media functions in the contemporary environment.

We discovered that social media is not only useful for job hunting, but can help us better understand the dynamics among talented people in an organization, as well as how learning teams are constituted and flourish. We believe it can offer a competitive advantage in global business, help governments reinvent themselves, and help academics expand and evolve their capacity for teaching and research.

In the MIT Social Media Club, we encourage our members—including PhD, master’s, and Sloan students, as well as others at MIT—to understand and get handson experience using social media tools and to explore how they can be used to close the gap between an organization’s senior leaders, front-line employees, partner companies, customers, and other stakeholders. In the same way, social media can be used to build bridges between faculty members and students, and among researchers from different universities and countries.

Already we have come up with a couple of frameworks that we used in teaching an Independent Activities Period course this past ESD.942 Social Media: Trust, Information Seeking & Systems Innovation in the Digital Age. January, ESD.942 Social Media: Trust, Information Seeking & Systems Innovation in the Digital Age. This class was sponsored by Dr. Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, who led the first multidisciplinary research program created to understand the behavior of the 45+ population, including how the older population makes decisions using social media.

Although still very new, the MIT Social Media Club has held several successful events, including workshops on how to increase your digital footprint and how to use social media in a job search. This spring we’re planning a series of social media research tours, which will allow club members to visit different departments and labs at MIT and elsewhere to explore how social media are being used in the workplace.

Google & MIT Workshop on using social media in recruiting

We would like to extend an invitation to SDM industry partners to get involved. For more information, visit the MIT Social Media Club online at

to shape the future of social networks


20 Lessons in Social Media from MIT

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Yesterday we finalized a MIT course ESD.942 Social Media: Trust, Information Seeking & Systems Innovation in the Digital Age. During past 2 weeks Joseph Coughlin, Azamat Abdymomunov and myself have been teaching during 20 hours at MIT an introduction to social media in different domains (Healthcare, Finance, Organization Development and Collaboration) and using a specific framework (Influence, Check and Balance and Trust).

ESD.942 class

Focusing mainly on class discussion, lecture and workshop, a group of 15 participants in this course had the opportunity to establish an open dialog about what is new with web 2.0 and why is affecting our life, business and profession faster than any other media technology before. Beside analyzing several topics such as why social media users share knowledge in the Internet with unknown people, what is the criteria we use in order to validate results in our Google search when seeking relevant information about our health, or how to cope with so overwhelming amount of information and technology platform.
Below are some of the  lessons in social media we came up after 5 days of intensive discussion on social media. In following days I will extend some of these take away of the course and illustrate with some of the examples and survey results.
  1. Local-Global symbiosis. If you’re big, act small. If you’re small act big.
  2. Give-more-than-you-receive
  3. Experiment! Learn-by-doing
  4. Be-inclusive
  5. Honesty (get naked?)
  6. Architect/plan your social-media-strategy
  7. Start with something you’re passionate about (have a PURPOSE)
  8. Empathy. Show-that-you-care
  9. Consistency, passion
  10. Patience
  11. Good enough is good enough.
  12. Persuasion – find overlap of interests between you and your audience
  13. Listen before speaking, learning before teaching
  14. Humor
  15. Past, Present, Future – analyze and feedback
  16. Iterative-learning-process
  17. Asking first
  18. Content-technology balance
  19. Accountability-to-oneself-and-others
  20. Consistency and commitment

You can download the slides of the course on Course Material. Lecture’s videos will be posted soon.

Rafael Marañón giving a lecture on Organization Development using Social Media

Lessons in Social Media

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