Get access

Metaphorical Models for Limits to Growth and Industrialization


  • The paper has benefited from thoughtful comments and suggestions of two anonymous referees and the editors. They have helped me express more clearly the operation and purpose of metaphorical models.

John D. W. Morecroft, London Business School, Regent's Park, London NW1 4SA, UK.



In this paper, I present two system dynamics models and simulators to explore sustainability and limits to growth in industrial society. I first describe a small model of the fishing industry. I then use the same model as a metaphor to think about global growth and industrialization and to interpret the closed-loop feedback structure and dynamics of Jay Forrester's World Dynamics model. This famously concise (yet dynamically intricate) model represents an industrial society whose growth is eventually curtailed. My approach with both models is to investigate the feedback structure surrounding investment policy. Building on this material, I examine the value of metaphorical models for interpreting puzzling phenomena in business and society. Finally, I discuss generic coordination problems in managing the growth of firms, industries and society. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.