Cows, agency, and the significance of operational thinking

Authors

  • Camilo Olaya

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento de Ingeniería Industrial, Grupo TESO, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota
    • Correspondence to: Camilo Olaya, Departamento de Ingeniería Industrial, Grupo TESO, Universidad de los Andes, Calle 19A No. 1-37 Este, Bogota. E-mail: colaya@uniandes.edu.co

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  • A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the 30th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society

Abstract

The reverence for data as the source of knowledge seems to be the rule in academic activities. In this respect, system dynamics has much to offer. One of its trademarks is “operational thinking”, a distinct attitude that, unlike scientific practices that seek to understand the world by means of data analysis, seeks to transform systems in terms of operations. Operational thinking means to recognize agency as the driving force through which systems actually work: free decision-makers invent their own future through actions that shape and create systems; they do not obey laws to be discovered by observing the past. System dynamics models provide intelligible explanations that meet such agency. Redesigning and improving human systems require then the capacity to realize and transform operational arrangements, that is, to understand and change decision processes and purposeful actions. Copyright © 2016 System Dynamics Society

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