Linking event thinking with structural thinking: Methods to improve client value in projects

S.M. Howick, F. Ackermann, D.F. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Using a participant-observer research design, a team of modelers designed and implemented modeling guidelines to link semantically rich scenario maps to a formal causal influence diagram of a running simulation model. This process serves to link event thinking to structural thinking. These guidelines were used in a case, which involved: (1) developing a cause model of scenarios of the promotion of renewable energy sources in the U.K. electric power market from material elicited from a client group; (2) creating a system dynamics model of the same area; and (3) an integration of products 1 and 2 which enabled an analysis of the scenarios using the simulation model. The first two products used standard approaches and are not new; however, the third represents the key output of the research. By linking products 1 and 2, the research aimed to create better client value in the project by combining, in a systematic way, the relevant elements of scenario maps and system dynamics models. The process allows client groups to visualize and comprehend the linkage between event thinking and structural thinking in a complex system. This work informs ongoing research in group model building, strategy modeling (especially using scenarios) and the ongoing debate about qualitative versus quantitative system dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-140
Number of pages27
JournalSystem Dynamics Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • structural thinking
  • project management
  • system dynamics
  • management


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