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Systems Thinking and Wargaming

Peter P. PerlaEdsel D. McGrady
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Wargaming, in what may be called its modern form, has been around for well over 200 years. Systems thinking and its more complex variant, systems dynamics, have been prominent techniques in management science since the late 1950s. This paper explores the connections between these two powerful tools. It addresses the questions of how wargaming can support those who develop and use systems models, and how such systems models can, in turn, help those who design, control, and play in wargames.

These subjects are especially timely because today’s theater commanders and their staffs are challenged to conduct—and assess the effectiveness of—“influence operations.” The nature of these sorts of operations is always changing, and measures of their effectiveness are at best controversial and at worst, non-existent. Wargaming and systems thinking can help.

Our research and analysis of this subject leads us to conclude that wargames and wargaming techniques can help those who develop systems thinking models of operational and strategic interest. Similarly, systems thinking techniques can help wargame designers con- struct better wargames and explore techniques related to social and political interactions among nations and groups.

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This document was originally published in November 2009, reprinted April 2019.

Details

  • Pages: 86
  • Document Number: CRM-D0020990-A4-1Rev
  • Publication Date: 11/1/2009
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