How (and why) to represent systems archetypes in concept maps

Causal loop diagrams can help us understand interconnected situations. They are central to the discipline of systems dynamics and have been applied in different sciences and in business management. Systems archetypes are common forms of causal loop diagrams. In the mid-1980s, eight archetypes were developed at Innovation Associates to help understand the most common organizational system behaviours. Once an archetype is identified, its generic behaviour is known and systemic policy advice can be readily formulated. Concept mapping is also used for learning to understand complex systems. But so far it has benefited very little of the discipline of systems dynamics. This deficit could be addressed by integrating causal loop diagrams in concept mapping. In return, systems dynamics could benefit by integrating more aspects of reality through concept mapping. Either way, policy advice could improve by covering both systemic and non-systemic aspects. Here is how we propose to represent the Reinforcing loop archetype in concept mapping. For a discussion of various aspects of the notation used, we refer to the page on “Insight Maker/Causal Loop Diagram Notation” in the


About Sjon van ’t Hof

Development professional who worked in rural development, tropical agriculture, and irrigation development in Chad, Zambia, Mali, Ghana, Mauritania, Israel, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Netherlands in capacities ranging from project design and management to information management. Conducted missions to India, China, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Experience in the development and delivery of trainings in irrigation equipment selection, information literacy, Internet searching and database searching. Explores systems thinking in relation to international development, education, and management, with an ever stronger focus on the systems approach of C. West Churchman. Knowledgeable in tropical agriculture, project design and development economics, agricultural mechanization, irrigation, plant pathology, environmental degradation and protection, rural development. Co-authored "Wicked Solutions: a systems approach to complex problems", a book written by Bob Williams and Sjon van 't Hof. It was published in June 2014 and provides a practical way of dealing with wicked problems. Wicked problems are complex, ill-structured, human problem situations. This book will help you design an inquiry and intervention in such messy, wicked situations. It does so by guiding you through the steps and stages of a systemic process that addresses your own wicked problem. For more information, see or
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