System dynamics: qualitative maps

Purpose: To demonstrate how a qualitative system dynamics map is constructed, along with its value in identifying leverage points, as well as to develop principles for qualitative mapping.

Description: This 28 minute video by George Richardson describes his perspective on how a systems thinker and modeler approaches the problem of extensive evil. He builds a qualitative map and derives leverage points both for an evil regime and resistance to it.

In the second half of the presentation he reflects on the methods used, demonstrating the advantages of stocks and flows diagrams over causal loop diagrams for conceptualization.

He argues for the development of “explicit, widely known principles for excellent qualitative work” in the system dynamics field and proposes the following:

  • using mental simulations to reveal strengths and weaknesses
  • using empirical and time series data
  • deducing behaviours and using these to test the model
  • finding thinking aids for analysis and understanding
  • developing new diagramming and descriptive tools.

Video (28 minutes): “Why we need better qualitative system dynamics maps: the case of extensive evil” by George Richardson. Delivered at the online 2020 System Dynamics conference as “Can systems thinking be an antidote to extensive evil?” Online:

Related tools on this website:

Related tools on the i2Insights blog:

Related topics on Wikipedia:

Posted: November 2020
Last modified: November 2020