What are simulation good for? LO10120

Majola J.H.Oosthuizen (majola@ponderosa.is.monash.edu.au)
Sun, 22 Sep 96 20:14:16 EST

Replying to LO10033 --

Dear Fred and LO members,

In the thread Simulation and Object Technology LO10033, Fred Affeldt
replied among others:

>I have been involved in simulation and modeling for 18 years. Most has
>been predictive, since that is what most of the world believes all
>simulations are designed to do.

I hope you do not mind that I introduce a new thread, but I think the
issue Fred touches is an interesting and important one: I do accept that
the perception exists that simulation is meant to predict, which is
obviously not quite right, but what is simulation really good for?

Let me first make clear that I thouroughly believe in the use of modelling
and simulation, primarily based on the philosophy that we humans have a
tendency to cope with the uncertain future world by continuously
developing mental maps of cause and effect (see for example R.Hogarth,
1989, "Judgement and Choice", John Wiley & Sons). In my view simulation,
particularly of the system dynamics type, is an extention of, and support
to, this human characteristic.

I also see deep understanding as a necessary ingredient of good strategy
making. Here my favourite quote is from Sun Tzu's "Art of War" written
about 350 BC (see W.Hou, L.Sheang, B.Hidajat's excellent 1994 book titled
"Sun Tzu: War and management", Addison-Wesley Publ. Co.) "He who kas a
thorough knowledge of himself and the enemy is bound to win in all
battles... Know your enemy, know yourself, and your victory will not be
threatened. Know the terrain, know the weather, and your victory will be
complete." I deeply believe in this, but I found practicing managers
usually want quick results in a short time, they want answers, not things
to think about. In my experience that tendency is overwhelming.

Ninos and Bunn (1993, "OO/DEVS: A platform for industry simulation and
strategic modelling", Decision Support System, 15, 229-245) suggested
industry simulation has the following aims:

- Learning about the industry
- Communication models/ideas
- Exploiting uncertainties
- Developing strategies
- Competitive analysis
- Analysing scenarios

I presented this to management (those that have to do with top decisions)
and was surprised that they accepted these aims quite readily, ...
together, of course, with prediction.

In all I think the issue of what is simulation good for is not yet
resolved and the LO forum seems a good place to share some views about
this, bearing in mind that the issue here is not system dynamics or
modelling as technology or technique, but what it is good for.


Majola Oosthuizen
Majola J.H.Oosthuizen (PhD candidate) For commercial issues:
Dept.Information Systems BusComTech Pty Ltd
PO Box 197, Caulfield East 3145 Frankston, Tel 61-3-9789-8778
Monash University, Australia Fax 61-3-9776-6899


"Majola J.H.Oosthuizen" <majola@ponderosa.is.monash.edu.au>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>