Business Dynamics: MIT's Approach to Diagnosing and Solving Complex Business Problems

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This course provides an intensive, hands-on introduction to system dynamics, a unique framework for understanding and managing complex businesses and organizations, developed at MIT by the very faculty teaching this program. Participants are introduced to a variety of tools, including mapping techniques, simulation models, and MIT’s “management flight simulators” to help them understand the sources of persistent problems and how business decisions may result in complicated cause-and-effect loops.

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Business Dynamics: MIT's Approach to Diagnosing and Solving Complex Business Problems
Certificate Track: Management and Leadership
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Tuition: $9,100 (excluding accommodations)
Program Days (for ACE Credit) 5

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In a world of growing complexity, many of the most vexing problems facing managers arise from the unanticipated side-effects of their own past actions. In response, organizations struggle to increase the speed of learning and adopt a more systemic approach. The challenge is to move beyond outdated slogans about accelerated learning and “thinking systemically” to implementing practical tools that help managers design better operating policies, understand complexity, and guide effective change.


This program introduces participants to system dynamics, a powerful framework for identifying, designing, and implementing high-leverage interventions for sustained success in complex systems. It has been used successfully in diverse industries and organizations, such as Airbus, Compaq, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Merck. Developed at MIT more than thirty years ago by computer pioneer Jay Forrester, system dynamics led to the creation of management flight simulators that allow managers to accelerate learning, experience the long-term side effects of decisions, and design structures and strategies for greater success.


Through intensive, hands-on workshops and interactive experiments, participants will be exposed to the principles of systems thinking and practical methods for putting them into action. They will be introduced to a variety of tools, including mapping techniques, simulation models, and MIT’s management flight simulators, which they can apply to their own business environment as soon as they complete the program. Throughout the week, participants work in small groups and interact closely with the course leaders, Professors Sterman and Repenning.


Participants will experience the Beer Game, a table game, developed by Jay Forrester. Played with pen, paper, printed plastic tablecloths, and poker chips, it simulates the supply chain of the beer industry. In so doing, it illuminates aspects of system dynamics, a signature mode of MIT thought: it illustrates the nonlinear complexities of supply chains and the way individuals are circumscribed by the systems in which they act.

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Participant Testimonial

"Though I took this course two years ago, its constructs resonate with me, as what I learned continues to have a significant impact on how I structure my approach in any analysis and problem solving situation. After class, I originally described it as a 'paradigm shift' in my ability to think through complex problems and demonstrate solutions in an elegant and simple fashion." - James T.

John Sterman: System Dynamics

In this video, Professor John Sterman talks about systems dynamics—a technique invented by MIT Sloan's Jay Forrester—to better understand dynamic problems arising in complex systems.

What's "The Beer Game"?

Participants at Play
Using pen, paper, printed plastic tablecloths, and poker chips, "the beer game" simulates the supply chain of the beer industry.

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