The road not taken: Observing a process of issue selection and model conceptualization


  • David C. Lane

    1. City University Business School, Frobisher Crescent, Barbican Centre, London ECZY 8HB, UK
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    • David Lane is currently a lecturer at City University (London). He has mathematics degrees from Bristol and Oxford universities and a doctorate in mathematical biology, also from Oxford. He was consultant at Shell International, where he led the system dynamics and decision analysis groups, and a marketing manager in Shell UK. His research, teaching, and consultancy focus on problem-structuring techniques for strategic thinking, in particular, system dynamics. He is also interested in the philosophical similarities between system dynamics and “soft” operational research and in the use of computer-based environments for training.


This article describes a case study involving information technology managers and their new programmer recruitment policy, but the primary interest is methodological. The processes of issue generation and selection and model conceptualization are described. Early use of “magnetic hexagons” allowed the generation of a range of issues, most of which would not have emerged if system dynamics elicitation techniques had been employed. With the selection of a specific issue, flow diagraming was used to conceptualize a model, computer implementation and scenario generation following naturally. Observations are made on the processes of system dynamics modeling, particularly on the need to employ general techniques of knowledge elicitation in the early stages of interventions. It is proposed that flexible approaches should be used to generate, select, and study the issues, since these reduce any biasing of the elicitation toward system dynamics problems and also allow the participants to take up the most appropriate problem- structuring approach.