System Dynamics Approach vs. Unicist Approach

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The system dynamics approach and the unicist approach to complexity were created for different purposes.


Complex adaptive systems are integrated by unicist objects. The human body and social systems are evident examples. Unicist objects are complex adaptive systems that assume the role of generating a necessary output. These objects assume multiple shapes according to their functionality in a complex adaptive system.  Complex systems might be adaptive or not. The level of adaptiveness increases the complexity of a system.

The System Dynamics Approach

The system dynamics approach was created to develop solutions in complex controllable adaptive environments by managing their operational structures. This approach manages univocal relationships and univocal cause-effect actions and their feedback.

This approach is functional in controllable environments, which implies having a low level of complexity. The definition of variables is an artificial pathway that is only functional in controllable complex adaptive systems. The system dynamics approach generates fallacious conclusions when it is applied in extremely adaptive or non-adaptive systems.

The Unicist Approach

The unicist approach was created to develop solutions in complex influenceable adaptive environments by managing their nature given by their functional concepts. This approach manages bi-univocal relationships and double dialectical actions and their feedback. Complex systems require managing the unicist objects they include, ensuring that they have the necessary critical mass to fulfill their function.

The unicist approach is necessary in environments that cannot be controlled but can be influenced, which implies having a high level of complexity. The influence depends on the capacity of building asymmetric complementation with negative slope in a system. This approach is based on the discovery of the structure of concepts that define the “nature of things” and their functionality emulating the triadic intelligence of nature.


Aspects System Dynamics Approach

Jay Wright Forrester

Unicist Approach

Peter Belohlavek

Application fields Complex systems with low level of complexity Complex systems with high level of complexity
Model Functional integration of the components Unified field defined by the underlying concepts
Structure of the system Functional operational structure of the system Conceptual structure of the functionality of the system
Boundaries of the system Controlled boundaries Open boundaries
Epistemological framework Dualistic – empiric framework Triadic – pragmatic, structural, and functionalist framework
Knowledge Technical analytical Technical analytical + Conceptual (Fundamentals)
Knowledge model Empirical Rules and logical inference based
Tools Empirical tools Logical and empirical tools
Relationship between components Univocal cause-effect relationships Bi-univocal cause-effect relationships
Actions Univocal actions and their feedback Double dialectical actions and their feedback
Thinking Systemic thinking Unicist thinking
Confirmation – control Simulation Unicist Destructive and non-destructive testing
Type of environment Controllable Influenceable
Reliability of results Probabilities Possibilities + Probabilities
Epistemological foundations Empirical Based on the triadic structure of the concepts that define the functionality of things
Approach Managing the interaction of components Managing the concepts that define the nature and functionality of the systems and their objects
Modelling Dynamic models Conceptual models
Management Of variables Of objects
Observers The observers are not part of the system (controlled boundaries) The observers are part of the system (open boundaries)
Research Systemic research based on variables Unicist ontological research based on objects
Future scenario Designable Influenceable


The complexity of a system is an intrinsic functional characteristic that defines its level of adaptiveness. Therefore, the use of the system dynamics approach, in complex environments that cannot be controlled, is just a palliative that does not ensure the generation of results. On the other hand, the use of the unicist approach in controllable environments allows expanding their functionality.

The management of complex adaptive functions requires the use of the unicist approach to make systems controllable and uses the system dynamics approach to operate them. The controllability depends on the level of influence that can be exerted in a system and needs to be measured using unicist destructive tests. The unicist approach uses the system dynamics approach as soon as the influence that can be exerted ensures the controllability.