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Here's the secret to finally creating to-do lists that work! Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention systems thinking thinking in systems donella meadows leverage points feedback loops must read recommend this book limits to growth easy to read reading this book well written great book systems theory highly recommend reading this book tragedy of the commons systems work real world introduction to systems easy to understand.

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Let me guess -- the author probably had 50 pages of really cool, thought-provoking material, but the editor went all, like, 'you can't publish a page book, go make it pages', and as a result, we see things like 3 repetitive examples where 1 would suffice, and then instead of saying 'and the converse is true', we spend another paragraph just negating the previous one. And sometimes you do bump into really important concept in all this, so I had to dig through this carefully in order to avoid missing what I came here for.

I wish there was a higher rating of 5 stars. This book so simply and elegantly explains any and every problem, scenario, and reality out there. Once you read and understand it which is so easy because meadows writes so straightforward and beautifully you can't unsee all of the systems traps and levers that are being used in the real world everyday. Life changing read for me I am so glad that I read it for a class of mine. A beautiful and brilliant work that gifts us with a world view to aspire to.

If I was king, this would be required being for all humanity. As Bill McKibben says, a classic.


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The first part of the book is the systems primer, and can be a bit of a slog for those unused to this discipline; the rest of the book is about how to apply systems thinking to a remarkably broad range of problems and issues. This book is as much a work of spirit as it is of science, and I keep it on the shelf between the Zen teachings and ecology texts. Get it; read it Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. The highly complex subject is covered in such a lucid manner, easily accessible to the lay person.

We know that the world is so unpredictable, but if you want to gain some understanding of why things happen they way they do, this book will help you to look in the right place. It also helps you build a method to understanding the impact of decisions you or your organization are planning to take. I've learnt a lot from this book, and even cited learnings from it to friends and colleagues.

Definitely a must read. I got this book because we develop systems for patient compliance, the reviews were high and i was eager to learn from such an expert of high acclaim. In fact the book is a superficial collection of high level ideas with little to no added value or insights. The book is a spectacular example of what Feynman called "cargo science".

Do meaningful not just quantifiable. The book is also heavily influenced by the author's environmental agenda which should be disturbing to anyone with an engineering or physics education used to system analysis. Read Bellman's classic "Adaptive Control Processes - A guided tour" for real thought and insights on systems. One person found this helpful. So simple and yet so complex! I am into Deming and Goldratt - so a manufacturing concept of a 'system', so I thought I knew what a system was. However, this is not that Meadows' system model has three entities - stocks a stock is the memory of the history of changing flows within the system - think 'dam', or 'bank account'.

Flows - things flow in an out of stocks - think the feeding streams, or dam outflow, or the wife on a shopping spree , and feedback loops 'a closed chain of causal connections from a stock that are dependent on the level of a stock, and that act through a flow - water level in a dam determining how much water is released, or the above-said wife showing off her new frock to her friends, and hearing that she should buy a matching pair of shoes.

With these three entities, an entire world literally of complexity can be modeled. Now, I know a thing or two about models, and that's an impressive redaction. Also, well written, interesting - especially fascinating is the model of exploitation of non-renewable resources. Did someone say Keystone Pipeline?


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Seeking a primer on systems thinking, and learning that Donella Meadows co-wrote the classic, 'Limits to Growth,' I knew that I had to read, 'Thinking in Systems. Meadows has surpassed my expectations. She begins with an introduction to systems, defining concepts such as feedback loops. She then discusses what makes a system resilient. She includes an analysis of how systems can surprise those who try to model them, making the prediction of systems behavior challenging.

She concludes with ways to solve systems problems. A must have book for anyone seeking alternatives to the reductionistic tendencies of many current scientific theories, 'Thinking in Systems,' should be required reading for policy makers, social and natural scientists, as well as engineers. Had to pick this book up for a class, and I actually really liked it.

Essentially, this book discusses quite a few ideas that sound like common sense once you understand them, but then you realize you haven't been acting in or thinking in this way. This book will definitely change how you think about whole systems and I could even see this book being useful for a wide variety of subjects: Game design, environmental science, management, etc All around interesting read.

See all reviews. Most recent customer reviews. Published 12 days ago. I am looking forward to continuing this book and learning about the systems approach. The iBook version is easy to Manipulate on my iPhone. I chose this rating because the. Published 27 days ago. Published 2 months ago. Published 3 months ago. Published 4 months ago. Published 5 months ago. Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers.

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Bounded rationality, a rationality that is consistent with our knowledge of actual human choice behavior, assumes that the decision maker must search for alternatives, has egregiously incomplete and inaccurate knowledge about the consequences of actions, and chooses actions that are expected to be satisfactory attain targets while satisfying constraints.

In the s, the attempts he made to deal with this theoretical impasse went in two main directions. In the first place, the lack of realism he pointed in the theory implied a need for the empirical study of how decision making is performed in practice. Field studies proper are not absent from Simon's work, but they are certainly not very representative. The attempt to empirically study decision making process was done principally through the joint use of laboratory experiments, observing subjects in the process of decision making over relatively simple and standardized problem situations, and the computer simulation of models conceived based on such experiments.

In the second place, Simon proposed a series of "simplifications" 6 which would make the decision making process more tractable to the agent. No doubt, the most important of them is the satisficing hypothesis: In these two essays [the papers of and ] the focus is upon ways of simplifying the choice problem to bring it within the power of human computation. I have tried, in these two essays, to show why this substitution is an essential step in the application of the principle of bounded rationality. According to this hypothesis, decision makers, instead of trying to maximize values in a given choice, aim at satisficing: The decision maker optimizes if he or she chooses an alternative that is the best one, as judged by a criterion that allows comparing all alternatives between themselves.

The decision maker satisfices if he or she chooses an alternative that attends or exceeds a set of minimal acceptability criteria, if he or she chooses a satisfactory alternative, but one that is not necessarily the unique, nor the best. Optimization requires computation several orders of magnitude more complex than satisficing. In general, the satisficing hypothesis is accompanied by search processes, for alternatives as well as for new information learning.

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Satisficing is also compatible with incomplete orderings of alternatives and with multiple criteria of choice. Other relevant simplifications advanced by Simon include: Broadly stated, the task is to replace the global rationality of economic man with a kind of rational behavior that is compatible with the access to information and the computational capacities that are actually possessed by organisms, including man, in the kinds of environments in which such organisms exist.

This quote is taken from the very paper in which the content of satisficing is first advanced, although the term only came about in Simon According to the author himself, this is also the paper economists most frequently chose for citation to refer to bounded rationality and satisficing Simon, , p. The specter of global rationality is still markedly present in the formulation: The general attitude of the paper denotes it too, for he first describes the model of global rationality and then, subsequently, proposes a set of "essential simplifications".

Notwithstanding, these simplifications in the process of choice proposed by Simon indeed advance in the direction of specifying the concept of rationality used by the author and go beyond, on account of this, the strict argument of the bounds to rationality. I argue next that these specifications can be grouped under the concept of procedural rationality, advanced by Simon in , being this, then, the most appropriate general concept to capture Simon's positive definitions of rationality.

Initially, the question of computation appears somewhat muted under the idea of computational "capacity", but it is present, as was pointed above.

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I say that the idea of "capacity" hinders the complete development of computational issues, because computation is something that has an important qualitative dimension, and fundamentally procedural: These computational concerns, therefore, appear in Simon's work simultaneously to the concept of satisficing, initially labeled "satisfactory pay-offs". Satisficing is essentially the hypothesis that allows, and practically induces, to the conception of diverse decision procedures.

With it, the decision maker does not have to take into account all possible behavior alternatives and, in addition, does not need to worry about ascertaining whether the alternatives he or she is considering are, in fact, all the possible ones. Alternatives can be sequentially found out, by search processes, search being interrupted when a satisfactory alternative is found. Satisficing is, hence, the theoretical step that allows Simon to abandon the idea of rationality as a tautological reasoning over given premises, which permits rationality to operate in an open, not predetermined, space.

On the other hand, satisficing forces him to inquire into the process by which such premises are built by the agent. The point I wish to emphasize is that, in the mid-fifties, although it is not yet the idea of procedure that organizes Simon's efforts, the need to theorize about the decision procedure is already implied in his theoretical propositions.

Moreover, and more importantly, starting from the critic of the boundaries to global rationality, every attempt at positive construction educes the procedural dimension of decision making. However, bounded rationality is always only the starting point and maintains its character of a construction in negative: The specification of such expedients, of other types of rational behavior, is the reaction to a bounded rationality condition, but it is not bounded rationality itself. In , he became a consultant to RAND Corporation, initially involved in simulations of an air-defense early warning station, and then, from on, connected with the Computer Science Department.

It was also the world's largest computational structure for scientific ends at the time. Simon's entrance in RAND marks an intellectual inflection of his. His research program became essentially aimed at discovering the symbolic processes that people use in thinking , and was based on the exploration of an analogy between the computer and the human mind. This meant that programs were taken to be theories: The attempt at programming theorizing the solution processes of relatively complex problems in computers with very limited memory and processing capacity led to the satisficing hypothesis, maximization would be impracticable without drastic simplification of the model.

In other words, if, on the one hand, the mind-computer analogy suggests a very concrete image of what are the agents' cognitive limits, on the other hand, programming always demands specification: Without such specifications, the programming cannot even begin. It is based on his work at RAND and his contact with computers, then, that Simon starts to advance in a more positive manner other concepts of rationality, which diverged from global rationality.

These would later b be grouped under the term "procedural rationality", in an attempt at reinforcing the importance of the decision making process to the theory. Still concerning this matter, it is important to point that the very same basic theoretical elements that emerged in the s as "simplifications" of the global rationality model form the core of the "procedures" in the s, especially satisficing. Moreover, if the problems associated with computation were already in the fifties the main source of positive advances in the definition of rationality, they came to be central in the theory.

More detailed comment upon these two issues is due. In his own words: And the failures of omniscience are largely failures of knowing all the alternatives, uncertainty about relevant exogenous events, and inability to calculate consequences. There was needed a more positive and formal characterization of the mechanisms of choice under conditions of bounded rationality. The concepts of search and satisficing are intimately related. I have pointed above that it is the hypothesis of satisficing that allows for the relevance of search processes within decision making process.

Satisficing and search are, therefore, strongly complementary.

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The second point in need of further comment is the one concerning computation. It has already been suggested that an important source of inspiration to the concept of satisficing, and to the use Simon does of search procedures in association with it, were his initial incursions in cognitive science, especially his attempts to program computers to imitate human decision making procedures and problem solving activity. The analogy between the human mind and the computer, in general, is taken in quite a literal fashion.

Economics, says Simon, "has to be concerned with computation", with "the processes people actually use to make decisions". However, these processes are precisely the object of another discipline: Economics is therefore, in this sense, tributary to cognitive science. It seems to me clear enough that the origin of Simon's formulations about rationality is, from the mid-fifties on, cognitive science.

His intervention in economics is fully coherent with his work in that area. In defining procedural rationality, Simon b defines also another concept as counterpoint, substantive rationality. Behavior is substantively rational when it is adequate to the realization of given ends, subject to given conditions and constraints.

Behavior is procedurally rational when it is the outcome of appropriate deliberation. Global rationality is understood as substantive in the sense that it is only concerned with what is the choice done, with its result.

The concept of procedural rationality focuses on how the choice is done. The crucial issue in the distinction between substantive and procedural rationality lies in the proposition that the decision making process, and therefore, also the agent that carries out this process, influences crucially the decision result. Simon's research in the area of cognitive science, demonstrated that, in complex situations, the choice taken, its result, strongly depended on the particular process that generated it, and not only on the objectives that oriented it.

Hence, it becomes indispensable to know the process by which the choice is taken. We have also already noticed the close relation that exists between "decision procedures" and "computation". What I expect to be clear at this point is that the central question regarding procedural rationality is computational: Simon conceived satisficing and search processes as algorithms, since they were forms of practical implementation programming of decision procedures in the computer.

Moreover, it is worth emphasizing that these concepts, at least in their publication, historically preceded the term "bounded rationality". The second general concept, which came later, and that attempts to embrace the very same mechanisms is "procedural rationality", which appears in Simon b.

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What made the paper distinct from most contemporary economic writing was it explicit concern for the process of making decisions, for procedural and not just substantive rationality. Because of this concern with process, the paper also represents a first step toward computer simulation of human behavior. Summing up, the way by which Simon models rational behavior is, since very early, founded on procedures, the basis of which is composed by satisficing and by search processes. In this sense, and although it is an a posteriori imputation, the concept of procedural rationality is the one that best captures Simon's view about rationality, as positively defined.

The concept of bounded rationality, in its turn, tends always to operate by negation: This argument could be questioned by saying that the problem is, at the bottom, just terminological, and that the concepts of bounded rationality and procedural rationality are really no more than two ways to look at the same thing, tow points of view about the same set of theoretical principles.

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I would not oppose to it as a first approximation. However, to stop there implies, in my opinion, to loose something of what Simon has to tell us about rationality, and also to attribute to him more than what he has really done. A clear expression of the distinction I am delineating appears in the differences in reception of Simon's rationality concepts: Even after having proposed the concept of procedural rationality, in , Simon continued to privilege bounded rationality as the main piece in his arguments. An example, among many possible ones, can be found in his Nobel Lecture, where he affirms that the results of his research in cognitive psychology supplied "rather conclusive empirical evidence that the decision-making process in problem situations conforms closely to the models of bounded rationality " Simon, , p.

Moreover, Simon in many instances practically equates "models of bounded rationality" with models that assume satisficing instead of maximization for example, the quote above, of , p. One way to conduct this issue is to assume that the relation between the concepts of bounded rationality and procedural rationality is always one of compatibility , but not one of identity.

I don't believe that Simon himself would be comfortable with this proposition, however, not to recognize this use that he makes of the concepts implies a problem: No doubt, he continues to use them both parallelly, and, in general, bounded rationality constitutes the public and most visible face of Simon's conception of rationality.

We could say, alternatively, that procedural rationality was a frustrated attempt, from the point of view of its repercussion. Notwithstanding, to recognize the complementarity of the concepts seems to be the most appropriate solution to the question: An alternative formulation to this complementarity is to say that "under conditions of bounded rationality" a "more positive and formal characterization of the mechanisms of choice" is needed Simon, , p.

One quite rare instance of recognition of the difference, in the sense I am emphasizing, can be found in the following quote: That case [the case of bounded rationality], at least as presented in the economics literature, had been a largely negative one, an attack on the veridicality of neoclassical theory without much more than hints about how to replace it. This distinction between procedural and substantive rationality, which I then began to develop, provided an opportunity to sketch out positively the psychological theory of procedural rationality.

However, a certain ambiguity results from this treatment dispensed by Simon to the concepts. At times bounded rationality is, or should be, understood as a negation of global rationality, and no more than that.

At other times, it should be understood as a positive construction, which includes satisficing and search processes, a content which, as I argue here, would be better expressed by the term "procedural rationality". Simon himself does not usually put much effort into marking the distinction. The result of this situation is that the concept, once it gained course in economic science, serves as a convenient shortcut to any models that refuse global rationality, and not necessarily those that Simon had in mind. Of course that this, in itself, does not constitute a problem neither to him nor to those who use the concept.

What is interesting to point is that, if bounded rationality is indeed a frontal attack to global rationality theories, it stands out for its lack of specificity. This is true in Simon himself, but becomes especially evident when others adopt bounded rationality with positive rationality concepts distinct from Simon's. When Simon compiled his economic papers, in the early s, he entitled the two resulting volumes Models of bounded rationality: Plurality is implicit in the concept. To bear this in mind makes easier to understand the use of the concept of bounded rationality by a Thomas Sargent, and the differences in the interpretations of this concept between Simon and Sargent Sent, ; see also Sent, Klaes and Sent, studying that which they defined as the "bounded rationality's semantic field", follow historically the diverse expressions that denote the boundaries or limits to rationality, and also the different uses of some of the most important of these expressions.

Based on this study, they formulate precisely the point in question. It is thus an important aspect of the more recent use of 'bounded rationality' subsequent to its institutionalization as the core of the BR field that an increasing number of literatures began to use it in ways not only incongruent with the initial motivation of Simon when he crafted it, but also exhibiting significant cross-sectional divergence in interpretation.

As we write, 'bounded rationality' is being employed with numerous different shades of meaning, and there is little indication of any convergence toward a dominant interpretation. All this has done little harm to the use of the expression as the main currency for conceptualizing limitations to the decision-making capabilities of human actors. Klaes and Sent, , p. This sets the stage for us to deal with another problem.

Simon was not the first, and neither the only, to question the economic theory based on global rationality for its lack or realism. It is not difficult to suppose that this critic is as old as the theory. However, according to Klaes and Sent , p. In this case, why then was Simon better succeeded than the others were? If he was Why did he become one of the main spokespersons of this critic? That, no doubt, he was. Why did he become the "prophet" of bounded rationality?

Some non excluding hypothesis can be raised on this respect. In the first place, Simon confronts the theories of global rationality, it is true, but in their own field. There is common ground between his theoretical propositions and the more orthodox streams of economics: In the second place, he had far from negligible social and political insertion in the economic science field. Simon himself explains the Nobel he received this way: Without that accreditation, I suspect I would not have won the prize.

By economics profession elite he meant Cowles Commission and, especially, the Econometric Society. In the third place, the Nobel Prize itself, received by him in , doubtless weights in the legitimacy attributed to his work. This hypothesis gains some strength when we look the graphic elaborated by Klaes and Sent , p. In it, we notice certain equilibrium between the different expressions up to the year and a clear "take off" of "bounded rationality" between and In other words, the Swedish academy's influence on the success of the expression "bounded rationality" is, no doubt, significant.

This is an interesting fact, concerning our general argument, for still another reason: