John Sterman

John Sterman
Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT · MIT Sloan School of Management

About

182
Publications
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31,265
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Publications

Publications (182)
Article
Full-text available
This paper provides a review and comparison of strategies to increase forest carbon, and reduce species losses for climate change mitigation and adaptation in the United States. It compares forest management strategies and actions that are taking place or being proposed to reduce wildfire risk and to increase carbon storage with recent research fin...
Article
Achieving societal climate goals requires rapid reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation. Recent efforts by policymakers have focused on increasing consumer adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). Nevertheless, EV sales remain low. Worse, even if EV market share jumped dramatically, it would take decades to replace the existing...
Article
Full-text available
Sociopolitical values are an important driver of climate change beliefs, attitudes, and policy preferences. People with “individualist‐hierarchical” values favor individual freedom, competition, and clearly defined social hierarchies, while “communitarian‐egalitarians” value interdependence and equality across gender, age, heritage, and ethnicity....
Article
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In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2018) found that rapid decarbonization and net negative greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-century are required to “hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C,” as stipulat...
Article
Effective responses to the COVID‐19 pandemic require integrating behavioral factors such as risk‐driven contact reduction, improved treatment, and adherence fatigue with asymptomatic transmission, disease acuity, and hospital capacity. We build one such model and estimate it for all 92 nations with reliable testing data. Cumulative cases and deaths...
Article
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Tests to screen for certain diseases are increasingly common in medical practice. However, guidelines for routine screening are contentious for many disorders and often fluctuate over time. Some tests are over‐ or underused compared to available evidence that justifies their use, with clinical practice persistently deviating from evidence‐based gui...
Preprint
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Effective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic require reliable estimates of actual cases and deaths, and models that incorporate behavioral factors including differential priorities for allocating limited testing capacity, heterogeneous risk perceptions and resulting contact reductions, improved treatment, and adherence fatigue. We develop a behavio...
Article
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Background. We describe and provide an initial evaluation of the Climate Action Simulation, a simulation-based role-playing game that enables participants to learn for themselves about the response of the climate-energy system to potential policies and actions. Participants gain an understanding of the scale and urgency of climate action, the impac...
Book
Das Pariser Klimaschutzabkommen von 2015 fordert die Begrenzung der globalen Erwärmung auf "deutlich unter" 2 Grad Celsius gegenüber der vorindustriellen Zeit. Zwar wurde es von der internationalen Staatengemeinschaft anerkannt, jedoch reichen die national festgelegten Beiträge (NDCs) bisher nicht aus, um das Ziel zu erreichen. Neben der "Emissions...
Article
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We respond to Prisley et al's (2018 Environ. Res. Lett. 13 128002) critique of Sterman et al (2018 Environ. Res. Lett. 13 015007), which found that using wood to produce electricity can worsen climate change at least through 2100, even if wood displaces coal. The result arises because (1) wood generates more CO2/kWh than coal, creating an initial c...
Article
The late Jay Forrester founded the field of system dynamics 60 years ago. On this anniversary I ask what lessons his remarkable life of innovation and impact hold for the field. From a Nebraska ranch to MIT, servomechanisms, digital computing and system dynamics, Jay lived his entire life on the frontier, innovating to solve critical problems. Toda...
Article
Full-text available
Climate change communication efforts grounded in the information deficit model have largely failed to close the gap between scientific and public understanding of the risks posed by climate change. In response, simulations have been proposed to enable people to learn for themselves about this complex and politically charged topic. Here we assess th...
Data
Comparison of gains in constructs from sessions with higher-than-median number of usable survey responses (Hi-part) to those with lower-than-median number of usable cases (Lo-part). (DOCX)
Data
Comparison of pre-survey responses for participants who completed the post-survey (i.e., >80% of items in both pre- and post-surveys provided) to those who did not. (DOCX)
Data
Briefing memos provided to participants during World Climate. (PDF)
Data
Correlation matrices for session-level (A) and participant-level control variables (B). Pearson correlation coefficients are provided, with bold text reflecting correlations that are statistically significant at p < 0.05. (DOCX)
Data
Comparison of pre- and post-survey means and paired t-tests for constructs reflecting climate change affect (‘Urgency,’ and ‘Hope’), knowledge (‘Impacts,’ ‘Causes’, ‘Stock-flow task’), and intent to take action (‘Intent’) among participants who were required to participate in World Climate as part of a program unrelated to climate change, environme...
Data
Estimates from linear regressions with all sessions included in the analysis. After Bonferroni correction, p-values < 9.6 x 10−6, <9.6 x 10−5, and 4.8 x 10−4 are considered significant at levels of 0.001 (***)), 0.01 (**), and 0.05 (*), respectively. (DOCX)
Data
Regression results with data limited to sessions with >30% response rates. After Bonferroni correction, p-values < 9.6 x 10−6, <9.6 x 10−5, and 4.8 x 10−4 are considered significant at α levels of 0.001 (***)), 0.01 (**), and 0.05 (*) respectively. (DOCX)
Article
Full-text available
Mitigation scenarios to limit global warming to 1.5 °C or less in 2100 often rely on large amounts of carbon dioxide removal (CDR), which carry significant potential social, environmental, political and economic risks. A precautionary approach to scenario creation is therefore indicated. This letter presents the results of such a precautionary mode...
Article
Constraints on production capacity adjustment present a strategic and operational problem for managers launching products when demand is uncertain. Stock‐outs can be costly if demand exceeds available product supply, as sales are deferred or lost when prospective customers are waitlisted. Recent research on diffusion under supply constraints has an...
Article
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Bioenergy is booming as nations seek to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union declared biofuels to be carbon-neutral, triggering a surge in wood use. But do biofuels actually reduce emissions? A molecule of CO2 emitted today has the same impact on radiative forcing whether it comes from coal or biomass. Biofuels can only reduce atm...
Article
Full-text available
Climate change communication efforts grounded in the information deficit model have largely failed to close the gap between scientific and public understanding of the risks posed by climate change. In response, simulations have been proposed to enable people to learn for themselves about this complex and politically charged topic. Here we assess th...
Article
Forrester’s presence as one of the 23 members of the IFORS “Operational Research Hall of Fame” rests on his creation, development and application of the System Dynamics approach. However, his career also involved highly significant theoretical and applied work in, and contributions to: servomechanisms, computer memory, digital computing technology,...
Article
Background. A significant gap exists in the United States between ambitious regulatory goals requiring firms to introduce hybrid and electric vehicles, and consumer adoption of these technologies to date. However, the interventions required to close this gap are not obvious due to the complex feedbacks and time delays that govern alternative fuel v...
Article
Many academics, consultants, and managers advocate stretch goals to attain superior organizational performance. However, existing theory speculates that, although stretch goals may benefit some organizations, they are not a “rule for riches” for all organizations. To address this speculation, we use two experimental studies to explore the effects o...
Article
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... The OM research community has a long tradition of dynamic modeling, going back at least to the pioneering work of Forrester (1958) and Holt, Modigliani, Muth and Simon (1960). These innovators recognized that even core processes in organizations, such as production and supply chain management, involve critical feedbacks with other organizationa...
Article
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Can managers enhance social responsibility while also improving profitability? Research demonstrates that there are "win-win" investments that improve both socially desirable outcomes and the bottom line, from energy and the environment to wages and workplace safety. Yet many such opportunities are not taken—money is left on the table. Here we expl...
Preprint
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New products and ideas often exhibit heterogeneity in spatio-temporal diffusion, including spatial clustering at multiple scales. For example, adoption of the Toyota Prius hybrid electric vehicle is far higher on the US West and East coasts than in the Midwest; adoption clusters are also observed at the city scale. Does heterogeneity in adoption ar...
Article
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Implications of widespread mammography screening remain controversial, and major health organizations in the US adopt different guidelines reflecting significant variations in actual practice. Literature suggests that implementation of routine screening over the past 30 years has incurred less benefit and more harms than is formerly believed.
Article
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Supply chains are fundamental to a wide range of systems. Many exhibit chronic instability, including oscillations, amplification as disturbances move upstream from final sales, and phase lag. Every supply chain consists of networks, including stocks and flows of material, time delays, and the decision rules that couple them. This chapter develops...
Article
When suppliers are unable to fill orders, delivery delays increase and customers receive less than theydesire. Customers often respond by seeking larger safety stocks (hoarding) and by ordering more thanthey need to meet demand (phantom ordering). Such actions cause still longer delivery times, creatingpositive feedbacks that intensify scarcity and...
Conference Paper
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In this study we develop the first explicit and integrated, broad boundary feedback theory around the dynamics of population mass screening. The theory includes a decision theoretic core around costs and benefits including the fundamental tradeoff between sensitivity and specificity; and feedbacks that condition guidelines and the actual practice....
Chapter
Full-text available
Our civilization is unsustainable and it is getting worse fast. The human ecological footprint has already overshot the sustainable carrying capacity of the Earth, while population and economic growth are rapidly expanding our impact. Meeting the legitimate aspirations of billions to rise out of poverty while reducing our global footprint to sustai...
Article
Experimental studies of dynamic decision making generally show poor performance. Most, however, lack market mechanisms, specifically price setting, while economic theory suggests markets should mitigate individual decision errors. We develop experimental markets to explore whether different price institutions improve performance in dynamic decision...
Article
The MIT Sloan School of Management has created a set of interactive, web-based management flight simulators to teach key ideas in business, strategy, sustainability and related fields. The simulations are freely available through the MIT Sloan LearningEdge portal (mitsloan.mit.edu/LearningEdge). In these notes I describe six simulations available a...
Article
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Global negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have so far failed to produce an agreement. Even if negotiations succeeded, however, a binding treaty could not be ratified or implemented in many nations due to inadequate public support for emissions reductions. The scientific consensus on the reality and risks of anthropogenic climate...
Article
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The debate about breast cancer screening has become so contentious that rational decision making has been compromised at both the individual and policy levels. The controversy is less about available scientific evidence than it is about (mis)perceptions, judgments and attitudes. There is disagreement about how to fairly describe the risk and how to...
Article
Aggregate airline industry earnings have exhibited large-amplitude cyclical behavior since deregulation in 1978. To explore the causes of these cycles we develop a behavioral dynamic model of the airline industry with endogenous capacity expansion, demand, pricing, and other feedbacks; and model several strategies industry actors have employed in e...
Article
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Reproducibility of research is critical for the healthy growth and accumulation of reliable knowledge, and simulation-based research is no exception. However, studies show many simulation-based studies in the social sciences are not reproducible. Better standards for documenting simulation models and reporting results are needed to enhance the repr...
Article
In 1992 the nations of the world created the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to negotiate binding agreements to address the risks of climate change. Nearly every nation on Earth committed to limiting global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system,” [supersc...
Article
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From climate change, deforestation, and depletion of fossil fuels to overexploited fisheries, species extinction, and poisons in our food and water, our society is unsustainable and it is getting worse fast. Many advocate that overcoming these problems requires the development of systems thinking. We've long been told that the unsustainability of o...
Article
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In a set of experimental markets we investigate how the dynamic structure of an economy interacts with different price-setting institutions to determine market performance, stability and learning. We test the standard assumptions of optimality and rational expectations against a behavioral hypothesis in which subjects ignore critical elements of th...
Article
Full-text available
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the nations of the world have pledged to limit warming to no more than 2°C above preindustrial levels. However, negotiators and policymakers lack the capability to assess the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction proposals offered by the parties on warming and the...
Article
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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been extraordinarily successful in the task of knowledge synthesis and risk assessment. However, the strong scientific consensus on the detection, attribution, and risks of climate change stands in stark contrast to widespread confusion, complacency and denial among policymakers and the publi...
Chapter
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Jay Wright Forrester’s distinguishedcareer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began with pioneering work in servomechanisms and digital computation. Drawing on that work, he then developed and founded the field of system dynamics. By integrating concepts of feedback control theory and digital computation, systems dynamics offered a...
Article
As Sir Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony Corporation, settled in for his flight back to Japan from New York, a number of pressing issues occupied his mind about Sony's future. At the forefront, Sony's next generation video game console, the PlayStation 3 (PS3), was set to launch worldwide on November 17, 2006, a mere week away. Despite PlayStation 2's (...
Article
Research shows widespread misunderstanding of stocks and flows, even among highly educated adults. People fail to grasp that any stock rises (falls) when the inflow exceeds (is less than) the outflow. Rather, people often use the correlation heuristic, concluding that a system's output is positively correlated with its inputs. Although many argue t...
Chapter
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While the productivity and quality of manufactured products steadily improve, service sector productivity lags and quality has fallen. Many service organizations fall into “death spirals” in which pressure to boost throughput and control costs leads to worker burnout and corner cutting, lowering service quality , raising costs while revenue falls,...
Article
Understanding barriers to organizational learning is central to understanding firm performance. We investigate the role of time delays between taking an action and observing the results in impeding learning. These delays, ubiquitous in real-world settings, are relevant to tradeoffs between long term and short term. We build four learning heuristics...
Article
Accumulation is a fundamental process in dynamic systems: inventory accumulates production less shipments; the national debt accumulates the federal deficit. Effective decision making in such systems requires an understanding of the relationship between stocks and the flows that alter them. However, highly educated people are often unable to infer...
Article
Full-text available
Public confusion about the urgency of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions results from a basic misconception.
Article
When is it better to use agent based (AB) models, and when should differential equation (DE) models be used? Where DE models assume homogeneity and perfect mixing within compartments, AB models can capture heterogeneity in agent attributes and in the network of interactions among them. Using contagious disease as an example, we contrast the dynamic...
Article
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Automakers are now developing alternatives to internal combustion engines (ICE), including hydrogen fuel cells and ICE – electric hybrids. Adoption dynamics for alternative vehicles are complex, owing to the size and importance of the auto industry and vehicle installed base. Diffusion of alternative vehicles is both enabled and constrained by powe...
Article
This note introduces the special issue of the System Dynamics Review celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the field. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Prior research on competitive strategy in the presence of increasing returns suggests that early entrants can achieve sustained competitive advantage by pursuing Get Big Fast (GBF) strategies: rapidly expanding capacity and cutting prices to gain market share advantage and exploit positive feedbacks faster than their rivals. Yet a growing literatur...
Article
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Many in the system dynamics community argue that children are natural systems thinkers. Here we study how middle school students and teachers think about everyday settings involving feedback, stocks and flows, time delays and nonlinearities, prior to any formal training in these concepts. We develop instruments to elicit understanding of systems co...
Chapter
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How firms choose and manage their inventory is a question of interest for academics and practitioners in many fields, including Operations Management, Marketing, and Information Technology. Much recent attention has focused on the possibilities of information-sharing systems to aid in this setting, including sharing inventory information among firm...
Article
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Public attitudes about climate change reveal a contradiction. Surveys show most Americans believe climate change poses serious risks but also that reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sufficient to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations can be deferred until there is greater evidence that climate change is harmful. US policymakers likewis...
Article
Founded in the mid-1950s, the field of system dynamics has intellectual roots reaching much further into the past. The Archives section of the Review seeks to publish material from that past which can contribute to current theory and practice. The section welcomes previously unpublished but deserving system dynamics work, classics from past system...
Article
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Policies to promote public health and welfare often fail or worsen the problems they are intended to solve. Evidence-based learning should prevent such policy resistance, but learning in complex systems is often weak and slow. Complexity hinders our ability to discover the delayed and distal impacts of interventions, generating unintended "side eff...
Article
The case method is the traditional way of teaching strategic management at business schools. While it aims to provide a simulated environment for strategy formation, the case method has several limitations. Many can be overcome through the use of Management Flight Simulators (MFS) by combining computer simulation models with conventional case studi...
Article
Though often analyzed separately, supply chain instability and customer demand interact through product availability. We investigate the feedback between supply chain performance and demand variability in a model grounded in a first-hand study of the hybrid push–pull production system used by a major semiconductor manufacturer. While customers' res...
Article
The bullwhip effect describes the tendency for the variance of orders in supply chains to increase as one moves upstream from consumer demand. Previous research attributes this phenomenon to both operational and behavioral causes. Operational causes are features of the institutional setting that lead rational agents to amplify changes in demand, wh...
Article
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Successfully implementing concurrent development has proven difficult for many organizations. However, many theories addressing concurrent development treat either technical aspects of the development process (e.g., precedence relationships) or behavioral issues (e.g., creating effective cross-functional teams), but not their linkages. We argu