Abstract for: The Capability Traps in Explaining the Capability Trap: Lessons from the Field on Conveying Generalizable System Insights

In this paper, we build on our several years of experience introducing and using Repenning and Sterman’s “Capability Trap” model in the context of human service organizations, and reflect on the challenges we have encountered with explaining capability traps to non-system dynamics audiences. We identify three types of barriers (linguistic, cognitive, and emotional), provide examples of within each type of how they arise and contribute to a capability trap in explaining capability traps. We then describe seven lessons from the field that we have used and believe to be replicable and potential best practices for introducing capability traps to diverse audiences. Finally, we argue for a need to develop “translators” in the field of system dynamics who can help convey the deeper and rigorous insights of system dynamics models.