Friday, July 30, 2010

What one hopes for in professional meetings but rarely, if ever, encounters

July 30th
The occasion of my brief Korean trip was System Dynamics Society Annual meeting. The Society meetings are what one hopes conventions and association meetings will provide - high quality papers, conversations with colleagues sharing common interests, an opportunity to make new friends and a remarkable sense of community.

The field was founded by one of the great intellects of modern times - Professor Jay W. Forrester, now emeritus at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Since the field is new - the first papers appeared in the 1950s - most of the field’s leaders and founders are not only still living but attend the Annual Meetings regularly. (Tragic exceptions are MacArthur Genius grantee, Donella Meadows and creator of the first graphical user interface for System Dynamics Modeling (Stella), Barry Richmond). Most studied with Professor Forrester at MIT (as I did for a memorable year, but later in my professional career). In contrast to many fields, leaders and luminaries mingle freely and informally with newcomers and students. No other field, in my experience, is as friendly, welcoming and inclusive. The world’s most widely read book based on a computer model The Limits to Growth (the first report to the Club of Rome) uses System Dnamics theory/methodology. So do parts of other "global models."

The fact that all members share a common theoretical-methodological language (emphasizing dynamic behavior generated by feedback loops) also sets the field apart. Whether the topic of discussion is sustainability of the planet earth, urban development in Asia (my own present interest), efficiency in project management or improving product marketing in the pharmaceutical industry, all can understand the presentation and contribute. Discussions are lively, informed, respectful and collegial.

Even if you feel you have no interest in System Dynamics modeling or have never even heard of it, you should check out the System Dynamics Society website and even consider attending an annual meeting (the next will be in July 2011 in Washington DC). The experience will remind you of what you may have hoped for in a professional association but had - sadly - come to accept that attaining that vision of professionalism, community and collegiality was probably not possible.

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Blogger pragzz said...

I FULLY agree with what Dormgrandpop says here. I attended the SD meeting for the first time in my life, and it was such a positive experience. Although I have a few credentials that recommend me strongly, I had no reason to feel welcome or at home. I have not used System Dynamics in years, nor do I know when I will next use it at the level I did in graduate school. Yet, people were so supportive, loving and giving of their time. The seniors want the juniors to succeed and freely give of their wisdom and encouragement. It was a wholly positive and rewarding experience. I wish more students had access to people and an environment such as would be extremely invigorating.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Richard G. Dudley said...

I missed this meeting, but have greatly enjoyed many others for the same reasons mentioned

7:20 AM  

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