The dynamics of resource sharing: A metaphorical model


  • John D. W. Morecroft,

    1. London Business School, Sussex Place, Regents Park, London NW1 4SA, U.K.
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    • John Morecroft is Associate Professor of Strategic Management at London Business School and was previously a faculty member of MIT's Sloan School, where he received his PhD. His research interests lie at the interface of system dynamics and strategy, and he has applied his ideas as consultant to a number of prominent international firms.

  • Erik R. Larsen,

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    • Erik Larsen is Research Fellow at London Business School. He obtained his PhD from the Copenhagen Business School, and MSc from the Technical University of Denmark. His research interests, publications and consulting cover the areas of non-linear dynamics, system dynamics, privatisation and organisational theory.

  • Alessandro Lomi,

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    • Alessandro Lomi is Assistant Professor at London Business School. He received his MSc and PhD degrees from Cornell University, having graduated in Economics and Management from the University of Bologna, Italy. He researches in evolutionary theories of organisations, social network analysis, and the experimental design of decision-making.

  • Ari Ginsberg

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    • Ari Ginsberg is Associate Professor of Strategy and Management at the Stern School of Business, New York University. He holds an MBA and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters in Psychology from Columbia University. He has published widely on strategic change, managerial cognition and organisational learning, and serves on the editorial boards of a number of leading journals.


Most system dynamicists have used the example of a simple shower to explain feedback and to introduce the cyclical dynamic behaviour characteristic of a balancing loop. The damped system's temperature is relatively easy to manage. But with two showers sharing the same limited supply of hot water it is much harder to control the water temperature, because a person “managing” one shower is unaware of the other, yet must react to the aggregate temperature outcome resulting from “joint management” effort. A system dynamics model of a two shower system is presented and is simulated to illustrate the causes and consequences of interdependence in resource allocation, and to explore changes that can improve the coordination of decision-makers. Insights from the two shower model are then applied to understanding coordination in multinational subsidiaries with overlapping geographical markets. The article ends with some reflections on the value and limits of a metaphorical model.