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System Dynamics Conference in Cambridge, MA

August 7th, 2015 No comments

The 33rd International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) was an inspiring event and we met many new faces as well as many longtime friends! If you were not able to attend the ISDC, stop by our booth, or go to the workshops on Thursday, we documented some of the highlights for you. isee systems was once again a supporting sponsor, but several reasons made this conference special for us. We celebrated isee systems’ 30th year with instant prizes and a raffle, a birthday cake, and by sharing stories about isee systems’ history. Many lucky winners were able to take System Dynamics books or isee systems software home.

Celebrating 30 years of isee systems

Celebrating with a special cake!

Our story from the first icon-based system dynamics software STELLA in 1985 up to our newest product Stella Professional in 2015

Our story from the first icon-based system dynamics software STELLA in 1985 up to our newest product Stella Professional in 2015 (click to enlarge)

Also special this year was that Karim Chichakly, Co-President of isee systems, was one of the two program chairs together with Khalid Saeed from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Moreover, Co-Presidents Karim Chichakly and Robert Eberlein led several workshops during the Summer School before the conference. In the process of preparing for the conference we had the pleasure of reviewing some amazing new work by the community.

David Collste and Therese Bennich accept the Barry Richmond Scholarship Award 2015

David Collste and Therese Bennich accept the Barry Richmond Scholarship Award 2015

An example of particularly meaningful work was done by Therese Bennich, Tom Bongers, and David Collste, this year’s winners of the Barry Richmond Scholarship Award. The award was established in 2007 to honor and continue the legacy of our company founder, Barry Richmond.  Barry was devoted to helping others become better “Systems Citizens”.  It was his mission to make Systems Thinking and System Dynamics accessible to people of all ages and in all fields. The winners contributed to this goal by their analysis Exploring Degrowth Pathways Using System Dynamics. More outstanding work by award winners of this conference can be found at the System Dynamics Society website.

William Schoenberg presents our newest product Stella Professional

William Schoenberg presents our newest product Stella Professional

The conference is always an exciting time for us to meet and talk with our customers and fellow Systems Thinking practitioners. This year we released an upgrade to STELLA/iThink ®, version 10.1 and our brand new product, Stella Professional 1.0. We enjoyed the opportunity to talk about both releases at our Users’ Group Meeting and during our Thursday Workshops, hosted by Robert Eberlein and William Schoenberg. If you missed our workshops, have a look at these modeling tips for getting the best out of your new Stella Professional software and have a look at this introductory webinar.

There are many more conference highlights that are worth reading up on. Get a full impression by searching for #isdc15 on social media or by watching these great videos by the System Dynamics Society.

Our personal favorite moment? We certainly can’t pick one, but our team agrees that seeing the amazing work done by our customers is a tremendous inspiration for us all – so we look forward to seeing you at the next ISDC in Delft 2016!

XMILE – An open standard for system dynamics models

July 19th, 2013 No comments

In June, isee systems and IBM sponsored a new technical committee in OASIS, a large standards organization. This committee is developing a new system dynamics modeling standard called XMILE. This blog post will answer some important questions about XMILE.

1. What is XMILE?

XMILE is an open XML protocol for the sharing, interoperability, and reuse of system dynamics models and simulations.

2. What’s the difference between XMILE and SMILE?

XMILE is the XML representation of a system dynamics model. SMILE is the underlying system dynamics language that is represented in XML using XMILE. In this way, it is very similar to the DYNAMO language originally used to create system dynamics models. SMILE could eventually be encoded using something other than XML.

3. How does XMILE benefit iThink and STELLA users?

There are several immediate benefits to iThink and STELLA users:

  • XML files can be reformatted and styled with XSLT files. There are programs available that generate reports directly from XML files.
  • Model files can be examined and edited in a text editor, facilitating searches and simple replaces.
  • Because XMILE is a text file format, proper versioning of model files, showing meaningful differences between revisions, can be done with version control software such as SVN and Git.
  • Because XMILE is textual, platform-neutral, and descriptive, rather than a binary representation of the implementation, it is more resilient to possible file corruption.
  • As the standard becomes more widely adopted additional benefits will include a broader market for models and the ability to share models with colleagues working in different modeling software packages.

4. How will the adoption of the XMILE standard benefit the field of system dynamics?

The benefits of this standard are:

  • System dynamics models can be re-used to show how different policies produce different outcomes in complex environments.
  • Models can be stored in cloud-based libraries, shared within and between organizations, and used to communicate different outcomes with common vocabulary.
  • Model components can be re-used and plugged into other simulations.
  • It will allow the creation of online repositories modeling many common business decisions.
  • It will increase acceptance and use of system dynamics as a discipline.
  • It will help ISVs make new tools that help businesses to develop and understand models and simulations.
  • It will enable vendors to develop standards-based applications for new markets such as mobile and social media.

5. What is the connection to Big Data?

XMILE opens up system dynamics models to a broader audience and for new uses, including embedding models within larger processes. System dynamics models provide a new way to analyze Big Data, especially when pulling live data streams into a running model to determine the impacts of our decisions in real time against future outcomes, to hopefully avoid unintended consequences of our actions. Note, however, that the presumption of Big Data, or the addition of Big Data, does not automatically lead to large, complicated models. You do not have to create giant models just because you have a lot of data. We’re aggregating the data and looking at it in a more homogenous way, so the models can still stay relatively understandable.

6. Can I adapt existing iThink and STELLA models to XMILE?

All of the isee systems products (version 10 and later) already use the XMILE standard in its draft form. As the standard evolves, isee systems products will be updated to meet the changing standard and your models will be translated forward so they remain XMILE-compatible

7. Do you plan to extend XMILE to include discrete event or agent-based simulations?

XMILE focuses on the language of classic system dynamics, rooted in DYNAMO. While we anticipate the language to expand to include both discrete simulation and agent-based modeling, version one of the XMILE specification is restricted to system dynamics modeling.

8. Could you show an example of how XMILE is used in a model?

XMILE is used to describe the model and is the format used for saving it. A model snippet is shown below with the XMILE that completely describes both its simulation and its drawing properties (in the display tag).

image

xmile

9. A big part of system dynamics is graphical, will XMILE include this part of models?

Yes, all graphical information is stored within the display tag, as shown in the earlier example.

10. Why would you want to store visual layout in Xmile? Why not separate structure from layout?

The structure is actually separate from the layout in the XML file. All visual information is embedded within display tags and can be ignored. XMILE defines three separate levels of compliance, with the lowest level being simulation information only (i.e., structure). A model does not need to include display information and any application is free to ignore it.

11. Will XMILE include data from running the model?

XMILE only represents the model structure, so no data is included.

12. Where can I get more information?

The OASIS technical committee for XMILE maintains a public record at https://www.oasis-open.org/committees/xmile/. This page is regularly updated with new information.

The draft standard can be found in these two documents:

http://www.iseesystems.com/community/support/SMILEv4.pdf http://www.iseesystems.com/community/support/XMILEv4.pdf

In addition, isee systems maintains a web page, http://www.iseesystems.com/community/support/XMILE.aspx, that will be updated periodically with new information about XMILE.

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2011 Barry Richmond Scholarship Award

August 10th, 2011 2 comments
Sarah accepts award

Sarah Boyar accepts Scholarship Award from Joanne Egner

The Barry Richmond Scholarship Award was established in 2007 by isee systems to honor and continue the legacy of its founder, Barry Richmond.  Barry was devoted to helping others become better systems citizens.  Systems citizens are members of a global community that strive to understand the complexities of today’s world and have the informed capacity to make a positive difference.  It was Barry’s mission to make systems thinking and system dynamics accessible to people of all ages, and in all fields.  The award is presented annually at the System Dynamics Society Conference to an individual whose work demonstrates a desire to expand the field of systems thinking or to apply it to current social issues.

Through most of his career, Barry focused on education as the key to spreading systems thinking.  As a teacher and a mentor he dedicated much of his time to developing tools and methodologies for teaching systems thinking.  With this in mind, it was a great pleasure to present this year’s award to Sarah Boyar, a recent graduate of the Masters Program in System Dynamics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

Sarah Boyar and Karim Chichakly enjoy the conference banquet

Sarah Boyar and Karim Chichakly enjoy the conference banquet

Sarah presented a portfolio of her work to the scholarship committee.  In particular, an essay about her teaching philosophy resonated with us.  Sarah wrote this piece while taking a seminar in college teaching in order to fulfill her Real World Dynamics course requirement at WPI.  Since she already had plenty of experience as a consultant applying system dynamics to real world situations, Sarah managed to convince the WPI powers-that-be that an essential real world manifestation of system dynamics is the way that it is taught.  This is something Barry would have encouraged and been excited about.

Her essay titled Beliefs About Teaching and Learning begins as follows:

I teach System Dynamics. While I want my students to have some knowledge of system dynamics, most of all I want them to be excited and stimulated by it. I also want them to find it beautiful: I want to teach in such a way that my students find some aspect of beauty in the work, whether it’s through the visual arcs in the model interface, or the precision of algebra in the way we write statements, or the way that system dynamics can ameliorate a social ill that concerns them. I want my students to somehow feel a sense of peace and beauty derived from some aspect of the knowledge I am teaching.

Among Sarah’s aspirations is the desire to teach system dynamics to professionals in other fields, namely lawyers (potential judges) and medical doctors.  Incorporating a systems perspective within both the judicial system and in healthcare could certainly make a positive difference for us all.  Good luck and congratulations Sarah!

2010 isee User Conference “Making Connections”

October 21st, 2010 3 comments

Connecting at the welcome reception

Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of hosting the 2010 isee User Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. During this amazing gathering of isee customers, partners, friends, and iThink/STELLA enthusiasts, we learned about the important work that is being done applying Systems Thinking to solve real-world problems, shared ideas, and made connections with one another.

For two and a half days, I saw participants immersed in keynote presentations, breakout sessions, and hands-on workshops.  As important, however, were the less structured round table discussions, poster presentations, and social activities.  Everywhere I looked, folks were engaged in conversation and connecting with one another.  Even better, I knew that many of those connections would continue to be fostered and developed well after the conference was over.

Presentations and models

Conference presentations and models are now available on the isee systems web site.  Please download and share these materials with your colleagues and friends. You’ll get a glimpse into the wide range of fields where Systems Thinking is being used to better understand the interconnections of dynamic systems including business, healthcare, education, energy, and the environment.  You can also download and listen to audio recordings of the keynote presentations:

A Conference Highlight

Steve Peterson describes the modeling process

One of the highlights of the conference for me was listening to the story that Steve Peterson and Paul Bothwell told about using Systems Thinking and dynamic modeling to help communities in high-violence Boston neighborhoods.

In their work with the Youth Violence Systems Project, there were two objectives:

  • Improve understanding of community-based violence in Boston
  • Help communities strategize and achieve sustained reductions in violence

What made this project different from other attempts to research and solve the youth violence problem in Boston was that it engaged “the community” in the development of the model.  From the get go, they included youth in the modeling process.  Gang members, in particular, turned out to be an important missing link to understanding violence and the dynamic system behavior.  Both Steve and Paul described some of the harsher realities of working with young people whose family members and friends were victims of violence.  The modeling process actually helped community members to articulate the “slippery slope dynamics” that move youth through the different stocks to gang involvement.  If you have a chance, I highly recommend listening to the audio recording!

Staying Connected

Participants engaged in round table discussions

Having time to interact with other participants was an important part of the conference experience.  It was wonderful to see the excitement and energy that is created when Systems Thinkers have an opportunity to connect with one another.  The cross fertilization that occurs so naturally between field experts, modelers, and educators was inspiring.

Please stay connected and let us know if there are other ways in which we can foster our growing community of STELLA and iThink modelers!

System Dynamics Conference in Seoul

August 10th, 2010 No comments
isee systems is proud to have sponsored the 28th International System Dynamics Conference held in Seoul, Korea last month.  We especially enjoyed supporting the conference again this year through the Barry Richmond Scholarship Award.   The scholarship was established in 2007 to honor and continue the legacy of our company founder, Barry Richmond.  Barry was devoted to helping others become better “Systems Citizens”.  It was his mission to make Systems Thinking and System Dynamics accessible to people of all ages and in all fields.
Presenting the scholarship in Seoul was isee’s longtime consulting and training partner, Mark Heffernan.  Mark had this story to tell about Barry:

I first met Barry 20 years ago, when I had to trudge through the snow to get to his small wooden office.  I was building a discrete event model using STELLA and I wanted him to make some changes to the software so I didn’t have these “egg timer“ structures everywhere.  Barry was horrified with what I had done with his software and said words to the effect that it’s not meant for that, it was created to spread the gospel of System Dynamics.  Despite the fact that I was a civil engineer, he encouraged me to take a look at SD.  Such was his passion and conviction that 20 years later I’m still attending this conference.”

Tony Phuah accepts Scholarship Award from Mark Heffernan

Through most of his career Barry saw education as the key to spreading Systems Thinking.  As a teacher and a mentor, he dedicated much of his time to developing tools and methodologies for learning.  It is fitting therefore that this year’s award was presented to Tony Phuah, a Master’s student in System Dynamics at the University of Bergen.

Tony’s work includes an experimental study that explores the question: How can we improve people’s understanding of basic stock and flow behavior?  His experiment uses two different methods for teaching stock and flow behavior — the standard method (using graphical integration) and a method he calls “running total”.  Tony presented his paper at a parallel session during the conference and it can be downloaded by clicking here.  Although the results of his study favor traditional methods for teaching stock and flow behavior, we all should be encouraged by the work being done to try to improve Systems Thinking education and communication.  In Tony’s own words:

Speeding up ‘Systems Thinkers beget more Systems Thinkers’ growth will make us one step closer to Barry Richmond’s vision of a systems citizen world.”

Congratulations Tony and thank you Mark for helping us to celebrate Barry’s passion!

Applications for the 2011 Barry Richmond Scholarship Award will be available on the isee systems and System Dynamics Society web sites.  Check those sites for more information.

“Tracing Connections” book honors Barry Richmond

June 17th, 2010 7 comments

Barry RichmondBarry Richmond was the founder of isee systems and pioneer in the field of systems thinking.  When his life was cut short by a sudden fatal heart attack, Barry was in the prime of his career and the systems thinking community experienced a collective sense of loss and grief.

Barry was fully engaged in bringing systems thinking to everyone.  He saw how this powerful way of thinking could help people to better understand society’s most pressing issues and make the world a better place.  Barry saw K-12 education as one of the keys to creating a better world.  He spoke often about educating young people to become ”systems citizens” and preparing students for the complex problems they would have to face.  Much of his time was devoted to training teachers to incorporate systems thinking into curricula and pedagogy.

A couple of years ago, Barry’s daughter, Joy Richmond, began spearheading an effort to create a book in honor of her father.  Joy invited a group of us together to talk about some ideas for the book and come up with a plan to make it happen. The first idea we discussed was writing the book that Barry himself had intended to write.  Barry left plenty of notes and even had a working title for a book about systems thinking called Traces.   We all agreed that it would be much too daunting to try to write a book for Barry, so we decided to have a book written in tribute to Barry by friends and colleagues who share his passion for systems thinking.

Steve Peterson, Corey Peck and Khalid Saeed were all part of that original discussion and eager to contribute by writing a chapter.  Each had a story to tell about using Systems Thinking in their work and why it is so important in an increasingly interdependent world.  What better way to honor Barry than writing a book that helped get the word out about systems thinking!

Shaping the Book

Lees Stuntz, Executive Director of the Creative Learning Exchange, was also in on the discussion and excited about asking educators influenced by Barry to contribute their stories. Before we invited other authors however, we wanted to provide some guidelines that would tie the book together and give it a more meaningful context.  I think it was Steve who came up with the idea to use the critical thinking skills first outlined in an article Barry wrote for the System Dynamics Review titled “Systems Thinking: Critical Thinking Skills for the 1990s and Beyond”.   We agreed the systems thinking skills would provide a good foundation for the book and each author could then choose a few of the thinking skills to emphasize when telling their story.

Tracing ConnectionsCountless hours of writing, editing, and designing later, Tracing Connections: Voices of Systems Thinkers was born.  Published in partnership with the Creative Learning Exchange, proceeds from the book will fund scholarships that offer learning opportunities for educators to use systems thinking and system dynamics in K-12 education.  The response so far has been excellent and we are pleased to be funding scholarships to help educators attend the ST/DM Conference later this month.

A Chapter for Everyone

What is especially nice about the book, is that you don’t need to read each chapter in sequence.  Since the authors’ experiences range from education and research to business and public policy, there’s sure to be a chapter for everyone.  Click on the link below to view the chapter by Frank Draper titled “Teaching by Wondering Around: Learning About the World Naturally”.  Frank tells a wonderful story about how Systems Thinking has transformed the way he teaches science to high school students.  After reading it, you’re going to wish you could enroll in one of Frank’s field science classes at Catalina Foothills school district in Tuscon, Arizona.

Teaching by Wondering Around by Frank Draper

Animal Temperature Model

Table of Contents with full list of chapter titles and authors

For more information or to order a copy of Tracing Connections, visit http://www.iseesystems.com/tc

Top Blog Posts of 2009

December 18th, 2009 2 comments

isee_blog_icon_128In 2009, the isee systems blog, “Making Connections” was created as a forum for sharing ideas and experiences with the Systems Thinking community. Blog topics cover subjects ranging from a systems perspective of current news events to modeling tips for advanced STELLA and iThink users.

As the first anniversary of the isee Blog approaches, we thought it would be interesting for folks to see the list of our most popular blog posts.


Top Ten Posts of 2009

  1. Modeling H1N1 Flu Outbreak
  2. Modeling Customers Switching Between Brands
  3. Modeling a Watershed with Arrays
  4. Matrix Arithmetic
  5. Spatial Modeling with isee Spatial Map
  6. “Thinking in Systems” book inspires online course
  7. Physics Textbook 2.0
  8. Insight-based Model Investigates the Housing Crisis
  9. Building a Health Care Model Hierarchically
  10. C02 in the Atmosphere Behaves Like a Bathtub
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C02 in the Atmosphere Behaves Like a Bathtub

October 16th, 2009 No comments

Last Friday we hosted the first of a four-part web seminar series titled Modeling for Environmental Sustainability.  This first session was about how you can use simple bathtub dynamics to understand climate change.

co2_bathtub In the session, Chris Soderquist demonstrates how you can use embeddable simulations to help raise awareness and understanding about climate change.  Using simple bathtub dynamics, the “C02 Dynamic Indicator” simulation lets anyone experiment with the current set of policy proposals for capping and reducing emissions.

The live session was recorded and is now posted on our website, along with two embedded simulations that you can run online.  All of the session materials are open source and we encourage you to link, embed and share them with others.