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: $8,500 (excluding accommodations)
Program Days (for certificate credit): 5

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 speed learning and adopt a more systemic approach. The challenge is to move past slogans about accelerating learning and “thinking systemically” to practical tools that help managers understand complexity, design better operating policies, 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 experience the long-term side effects of decisions, accelerate learning, 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 in the late 1950s 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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