Systems Thinking Metaphors for Illuminating Fundamental Policy Dilemmas

19 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2017

See all articles by Khalid Saeed

Khalid Saeed

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

Date Written: March 29, 2016


Public policy is often driven by two inputs: measurements that describe a shortfall from a goal, and simplistic policy recipes that strive to overcome the shortfall, often with little attention to how the shortfall was created in the first place. Indeed, measurement has become an important part of policy design. Measurements interpret performance as indicators of growth and the volume of activity. They can be easily fed to complex forecasting instruments generating non-verifiable futures, which drive policy with highly variable efficacy. Should we aim at more precise measurements and more complex forecasting instruments or develop more informed policy paradigms? This paper advocates the later by proposing several metaphorical policy structures that are cognizant of the root causes of the many classes of policy situations. They allow moving away from symptoms to address policy to root causes. They are proposed as an alternative to measurement based policy actions.

Keywords: Systems Thinking, Economic Development, Development Indicators, Public Policy, Forecasting

Suggested Citation

Saeed, Khalid, Systems Thinking Metaphors for Illuminating Fundamental Policy Dilemmas (March 29, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Khalid Saeed (Contact Author)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) ( email )

100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

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