Abstract for: Flavors of the Month: Comparing and Structural and Mathematical Approaches

The most important part of model formulation is identifying exactly what is the problem being solved. This often overlooked first step can have serious consequences on the choice of modeling framework and the resulting policy recommendations. To illustrate this point, this work addresses the emergence of managerial fads, wherein business methods designed to increase some measure of success in firm emerge, and but are then rapidly replaced. First, using a structural framework built from fundamental organizational and social theory, the emergence of cyclical adoption and abandonment of managerial practices is addressed. Using this framework, the shape of the reward structure is identified as a key policy lever. Next, the seemingly same problem is addressed but using a behaviorally modified Kuramoto synchronization mathematical framework. However the policy that emerges here leverages information availability, and instead of directly damping oscillations asks what amount of variety in management styles is appropriate for a firm. While this work has a secondary contribution of introducing mathematical concepts of synchronization to the System Dynamics community, it primarily illustrates that neither approach is necessarily ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other. Rather, this illustrates how the applicability of either approach is a function of the initial problem definition.