I thought he was dead somehow just to learn that he only passed away on 16th November 2016 – nearly 100 years old. Jay Forrester is connected to MIT and system thinking, Club of Rome and sustainability. Forrester was the founder of system dynamics, which deals with the simulation of interactions between objects in dynamic systems. He is the one who gave us another dimension – getting away from the linear path thinking. Some may know the Beer Game – a simulation of the bullwhip effect – well it is also the Forrester-Effect, as he wrote about it in Industrial Dynamics 1961 after the research on inventory decisions at General Electric or GE.
It is always fascinating to me when I learn about the circumstances this famous people grow up. He was a simple farm-boy at a farm in Nebraska, but had more interest in technology than in farming and moved to engineering and MIT in Boston. His practical actions have been for aircrafts and he created the first flight simulators for the Navy in World War II.
In the 50ies he thought that most steps in computers are done and it was time to move on – to management. The world was more than a model – he modeled World Dynamics and the complex interactions of the world economy, population and ecology, which was controversial, not only in the old days. He thought that his findings are so important to our thinking that we have to start teaching it in kindergarten. More in Wikipedia about that.
McKinsey refers to him in an article: Jay Forrester in the 90ies. It is very much a portrait of a man full of passion to find out. „I started to do some simulation, using a pencil and a page in a notebook. This was the beginning of system dynamics“. When we do simulation today, not many facilitators know about him, but use the principles.
He was of the same age as some other big researchers and practitioners like: Edward Deming and his total quality management system, Heinz von Foerster, a biologist and specialist in cybernetics and Gregory Bateson and Margret Mead, both active in anthropology and social studies. He published at the same time as Donella Meadows and her book: The limits of growth. Nearly all of them became very old but most of them passed away in the old millennium. So good bye Mr. Forrester, the last of the old ones passed away.