Undergraduate Courses


Cat. I The goal of this course is to provide students with an introduction to the field of system dynamics computer simulation modeling. The course begins with the history of system dynamics and the study of why policy makers can benefit from its use. Next, students systematically examine the various types of dynamic behavior that socioeconomic systems exhibit and learn to identify and model the underlying nonlinear stock-flow-feedback loop structures that cause them. The course concludes with an examination of a set of well-known system dynamics models that have been created to address a variety of socioeconomic problems. Emphasis is placed on how the system dynamics modeling process is used to test proposed policy changes and how the implementation of model-based results can improve the behavior of socioeconomic systems.


Cat. I The purpose of this course is to prepare students to produce original system dynamics computer simulation models of economic and social systems. Models of this type can be used to examine the possible impacts of policy changes and technological innovations on socioeconomic systems. The curriculum in this course is divided into three distinct parts. First, a detailed examination of the steps of the system dynamics modeling process: problem identification (including data collection), feedback structure conceptualization, model formulation, model testing and analysis, model documentation and presentation, and policy implementation. Second, a survey of the "nuts and bolts" of continuous simulation modeling: information and material delays, time constants, the use of noise and numerical integration techniques, control theory heuristics, and software details (both simulation and model presentation and documentation software). Third, a step-by-step, in-class production of a model, involving the construction, testing, and assembly of subsectors. Students will be required to complete modeling assignments working in groups and take in-class quizzes on modeling issues. Recommended background: SD 1510, or permission of instructor.

Graduate Courses


Why do some businesses grow while others stagnate or decline? What causes oscillation and amplification ? the so called ?bull whip? ? in supply chains? Why do large scale projects so commonly over overrun their budgets and schedules? This course explores the counter-intuitive dynamics of complex organizations and how managers can make the difference between success and failure. Students learn how even small changes in organizational structure can produce dramatic changes in organizational behavior. Real cases and computer simulation modeling combine for an in-depth examination of the feedback concept in complex systems. Topics include: supply chain dynamics, project dynamics, commodity cycles, new product diffusion, and business growth and decline. The emphasis throughout is on the unifying concepts of system dynamics.


This course deals with the hands on detail related to analysis of complex problems and design of policy for change through building models and experimenting with them. Topics covered include: slicing complex problems and constructing reference modes; going from a dynamic hypothesis to a formal model and organization of complex models; specification of parameters and graphical functions; experimentations for model understanding, confidence building, policy design and policy implementation. Modeling examples will draw largely from public policy agendas. (Pre-requisites: SD 550 System Dynamics Foundation: Managing Complexity.)


The objective of this course is to help students appreciate and master system dynamics? unique way of using of computer simulation models. The course provides tools and approaches for building and learning from models. The course covers the use of molecules of system dynamics structure to increase model building speed and reliability. In addition, the course covers recently developed eigenvalue- based techniques for analyzing models as well as more traditional approaches. (Prerequisites: SD 550 System Dynamics Foundation: Managing Complexity and SD 551 Modeling and Experimental Analysis of Complex Problems.)


This course focuses on analysis of models rather than conceptualization and model development. It provides techniques for exercising models, improving their quality and gaining added insights into what models have to say about a problem. Five major topics are covered: use of subscripts, achieving and testing for robustness, use of numerical data, sensitivity analysis, and optimization/calibration of models. The subscripts discussion provides techniques for dealing with detail complexity by changing model equations but not adding additional feedback structure. Robust models are achieved by using good individual equation formulations and making sure that they work together well through automated behavioral experiments. Data, especially time series data, are fundamental to finding and fixing shortcomings in model formulations. Sensitivity simulations expose the full range of behavior that a model can exhibit. Finally, the biggest section, dealing with optimization and calibration of models develops techniques for both testing models against data and developing policies to achieve specified goals. Though a number of statistical issues are touched upon during the course, only a basic knowledge of statistics and statistical hypothesis testing is required. (Prerequisites: SD 550 System Dynamics Foundation: Managing Complexity and SD 551 Modeling and Experimental Analysis of Complex Problems, or permission of the instructor.)


The performance of firms and industries over time rarely unfolds in the way management teams expect or intend. The purpose of strategic modeling and business dynamics is to investigate dynamic complexity by better understanding how the parts of an enterprise operate, fit together and interact. By modeling and simulating the relationships among the parts we can anticipate potential problems, avoid strategic pitfalls and take steps to improve performance. We study a variety of business applications covering topics such as cyclicality in manufacturing, market growth and capital investment. The models are deliberately small and concise so their structure and formulations can be presented in full and used to illustrate principles of model conceptualization, equation formulation and simulation analysis. We also review some larger models that arose from real-world applications including airlines, the oil industry, the chemicals industry and fast moving consumer goods. Students work with selected business policy problems based on generic structures discussed in the lessons. Pre-requisite: SD 550 System Dynamics Foundation: Managing Complexity.


This course addresses policy resilience and unintended consequences arising out of actions that are not cognizant of the latent structure causing the problem. An attempt is made to identify the generic systems describing such latent structures. The latent structures discussed include a selection from capacity constraining and capacity enabling systems, resource allocation, and economic cycles of various periodicities. Problems discussed in lessons include pests, gang violence, terrorism, political instability, professional competence in organizations, urban decay, and economic growth and recessions. Students work with selected public policy problems relevant to the generic latent structures discussed in the course. Pre-requisites: SD 550 System Dynamics Foundation: Managing Complexity, SD 551 Modeling and Experimental Analysis of Complex Problems.


The purpose of this course is to provide students with an introduction to the field of agent-based computer simulation modeling in the social sciences. The course begins with an outline of the history of the field, as well as of the similarities and differences between agent-based computer simulation modeling and system dynamics computer simulation modeling. An important goal of the course is to provide students with guidelines for deciding when it is preferable to apply agent-based modeling, and when it is preferable to apply system dynamics modeling, to a particular problem. Through a series of example models and homework exercises students are introduced to the software that is used in the course. Generally speaking, as the course progresses students will be introduced to increasingly complicated agent-based models and exercises so that their modeling skills will grow. The goal is to increase students? modeling skills so that they will eventually be able to create their own agent-based models from scratch. The remainder of the course is devoted to examining models of socioeconomic phenomena that reside within two broad categories of agent-based models: cellular automata models and multi-agent models. Along the way the cross-category, cross-disciplinary, principles of agent-based modeling (micro-level agents following simple rules leading to macro-level complexity, adaptation, evolving structure, emergence, non-ergodicity) are emphasized.


This course provides a rigorous set of frameworks for designing a practical path to improve performance, both in business and non-commercial organisations. The method builds on existing strategy concepts, but moves substantially beyond them, by using the system dynamics method to understand and direct performance through time. Topics covered include: strategy, performance and resources; resources and accumulation; the `Strategic Architecture?; Resource Development; Rivalry and the Dynamics of Competition; Strategy, Policy and Information Feedback; Resource Attributes; Intangible Resources; Strategy, Capabilities and Organization; Industry Dynamics and Scenarios. Case studies and models are assigned to students for analysis.


This course helps students develop understanding and proficiency in system dynamics simulation of energy and environmental problems. The majority of the content is devoted to case studies that focus on energy, water and environmental problems. Major business applications deal with boom and bust in power plant construction and a similar pattern of boom and bust in real--?estate construction. The text used is: Ford, Andrew. 2009. Modeling the Environment, 2nd Edition. Island Press. The book?s website ( http://www.wsu.edu/~forda/AA2nd.html ) provides model files, background on the case studies and a wide variety of extra exercises. For example, Students interested in water resource management can simulate the complex tradeoffs in the management of large river basins; students interested in water quality can experiment with models of accelerated eutrophication of fresh water lakes. A highlight of SD 561 is a class project. One option is to select one of the more challenging sets of exercises from the book (or the book?s website). Such a project is often the best way to conclude SD561 for students who are new to system dynamics. The other option is to improve one of the models from the book or the website. This option is usually best for students with previous course work in system dynamics. Their project report will explain why their simulations are an improvement on the published simulations. And they will explain whether the conclusions from their modeling reinforce or contradict the conclusions from the book. Prerequisites: SD550 or permission of the instructor.


This course will introduce students to the fundamental dynamics that drive project performance, including the rework cycle, feedback effects, and inter-phase ?knock-on? effects. Topics covered include dynamic project problems and their causes: the rework cycle and feedback effects, knock-on effects between project phases; modeling the dynamics: feedback effects, schedule pressure and staffing, schedule changes, inter-phase dependencies and precedence; strategic project management: project planning, project preparation, risk management, project adaptation and execution cross project learning; multi-project issues. A simple project model will be created, and used in assignments to illustrate the principles of ?strategic project management.? Case examples of different applications will be discussed. (Pre-requisite: SD 550 System Dynamics Foundation: Managing Complexity.)


There are three parts to this course. The first acquaints a student with dynamic macroeconomic data and the stylized facts seen in most macroeconomic systems. Characteristics of the data related to economic growth, economic cycles, and the interactions between economic growth and economic cycles that are seen as particularly important when viewed through the lens of system dynamics will be emphasized. The second acquaints a student with the basics of macroeconomic growth and business cycle theory. This is accomplished by presenting well-known models of economic growth and instability, from both the orthodox and heterodox perspectives, via system dynamics. The third part attempts to enhance a student?s ability to build and critique dynamic macroeconomic models by addressing such topics as the translation of difference and differential equation models into their equivalent system dynamics representation, fitting system dynamics models to macroeconomic data, and evaluating (formally and informally) a model?s validity for the purpose of theory selection. (Pre-requisites: SD 550 System Dynamics Foundation: Managing Complexity.)