Jay Forrester

Ramage, Magnus and Shipp, Karen (2020). Jay Forrester. In: Ramage, Magnus and Shipp, Karen eds. Systems Thinkers (Second Edition). London: Springer, pp. 97–106.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4471-7475-2_10


Jay Wright Forrester was an American engineer and management thinker. He founded System Dynamics, an approach based on computer modelling which arguably has done more than any other method to provide a practical and realistic analysis of change processes in systems. System Dynamics (SD) has been taken up across the world, initially by Forrester’s students and colleagues, but increasingly by a much wider community. It has had profound and influential applications in a range of fields, most prominently organisational management, urban planning and environmental policy. Forrester summed up his concerns and his understanding of SD in an ‘elevator pitch’ (a statement short enough to be spoken in an elevator ride) on an email list:

System dynamics deals with how things change through time, which includes most of what most people find important. It uses computer simulation to take the knowledge we already have about details in the world around us and to show why our social and physical systems behave the way they do. System dynamics demonstrates how most of our own decision-making policies are the cause of the problems that we usually blame on others, and how to identify policies we can follow to improve our situation. (Forrester JW. System dynamics in the elevator. System-dynamics email list. https://www.ventanasystems.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1787#p1964. Accessed 25 Sept 2019, 1997)

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