Systems & complexitySystems thinking and modelling

The Process of Modeling: Introduction [Systems thinking & modelling series]

This is part 44 of a series of articles featuring the book Beyond Connecting the Dots, Modeling for Meaningful Results.

Now that you are well on your way to being a modeling expert, you may be asked to assist with various modeling projects. As a motivating example, a friend – it could also be a colleague or client – comes to you and asks for help. This friend has been involved with the effort to protect the rare Aquatic Hamster.

The Aquatic Hamster is an endangered species that spends most of its life living in lakes and rivers. Unfortunately, development and human encroachment has steadily reduced the available habitat for these hamsters, and their population has plummeted. Indeed, now there is just one last population of them left. It is located on a lake just south of the Canada/United States border.

Your friend asks you to build a model of this hamster population in order to help prioritize protection efforts and to rally support from governmental agencies and non-profits to protect this last hamster colony. You want to help your friend, and the hamsters are admittedly cute, so you agree to take on this modeling project.

You are at your desk ready to start building the model, but then realize something: You aren’t sure what to do next. There are so many candidates for first steps. Do you start sketching diagrams? Do you talk to hamster experts? Do you start coding up a model? You are paralyzed by the sheer number of different choices. You know your friend is counting on you, so what do you do now?

In this section, we answer that question. We explore the modeling process from start to finish, introducing the tools and techniques for getting from “I need a model” to a final product that works. As you will see, our experience is that the best approach to tackling tough modeling problems is to start deceivingly small: build the simplest model possible (what we call the “Minimum Viable Model”) to get going and then iterate aggressively on this initial version.

Next edition: The Process of Modeling: Why Model?

Article sources: Beyond Connecting the Dots, Insight Maker. Reproduced by permission.

Header image source: Beyond Connecting the Dots.

Rate this post

Scott Fortmann-Roe and Gene Bellinger

Scott Fortmann-Roe, creator of Insight Maker, and Gene Bellinger, creator of SystemsWiki, have written the innovative interactive book "Beyond Connecting the Dots" to demystify systems thinking and modelling.

Related Articles

Back to top button