Abstract for: Never the Strongest: Reconciling the Four Schools of Thought in System Dynamics in the Debate on Quality

We propose a reconciliatory categorization of different schools of thought in the system dynamics field based on different mental models. We suggest that these differences arise as the logical conclusion of natural and valuable differences in understanding and studying complex systems phenomena and how these confidence-building approaches are understood. We define the four schools of thought; the “Empirical,” the “Structural,” the “Pragmatic,” and the “Methodological” and four personas that correspond to each. Namely, the “scientist,” the “philosopher,” “policy engineer,” and “methodologist.” At best, we recognize that these proposed schools are useful heuristics and are not strictly exclusive. We also show how a reconciled approach can better serve the totality of challenges and quality criteria elements Forrester addressed[1], and not simply a subset. We believe that by recognizing the different schools of thought - and allowing each to identify its convention on methods, approaches, definitions of quality, aesthetics, and ethical modeling practices, we can best serve the entire field and the pursuit of systems science.