Limits to Growth

A Limits to Growth structure consists of a Reinforcing Loop, the growth of which, after some success, is offset by a action of a Balancing Loop.

In the above structure growing action adds to the results. The results then add to the growing action. This is the reinforcing loop. While this loop is operating the results interact with a limiting factor to add to the a slowing action. The slowing action then subtracts from the results.

In situations where a Limits to Growth structure is operating the reinforcing loop generally operates for some time with little apparent limiting action from the balancing loop. Once the results reach a certain level the slowing action begins to limit the growth that was being experienced. Since the focus had been on the reinforcing loop, which was probably producing something desirable, the slow down in results are usually confusing. The normal action is to place more emphasis on the growing action, which then tends to produce no more results, only more confusion. The Limits to Growth structure reaches a point where the results are actually inhibiting further results.

Effective Strategies

  1. The best defense is a good offense. As defined in the effective strategies for the Reinforcing Loop, if there is a Reinforcing Loop operating start looking for what is going to become a limiting factor, and remove it before it even has a chance to it to create a substantial impact on results.

  2. If the structure is already at a stage where the limiting factor is interacting with results to limit them the options are:

    1. Alter the limiting factor in such a way that it no longer interacts with the results to create a slowing action.

    2. Find a way to disconnect the results from the slowing action so it no longer exists.

    3. Disconnect the slowing action from the results so it can have no affect on results.

Areas of Concern

  1. There are often multiple limits to deal with which leads to an Attractiveness Principle.

  2. It is possible that limited shared resources are the source of the limiting factor leading to a Tragedy of the Commons.

  3. The limit may be insufficient capacity which leads to Growth and Underinvestment with a Fixed Standard.


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