Reinterpreting ‘generic structure’: Evolution, application and limitations of a concept

Authors

  • David C. Lane,

    Corresponding author
    1. Operational Research Department, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK
    • Operational Research Department, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK
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  • Chris Smart

    1. City University, London, UK
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Abstract

This paper traces the evolution of the generic structure concept in system dynamics and discusses the different practical uses to which they have been put. A review of previous work leads to the identification of three different views of what a ‘generic structure’ is and, hence, what transferability means. These different views are distinguishable in application as well as in theory. Examination of these interpretations shows that the assumptions behind them are quite distinct. From this analysis it is argued that it is no longer useful to treat ‘generic structure’ as a single concept since the unity it implies is only superficial. The conclusion is that the concept needs unbundling so that different assumptions about transferability of structure can be made explicit, and the role of generic structures as generalisable theories of dynamic behaviour in system dynamics theory and practice can be debated and clarified more effectively.

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