Causal-loop diagrams, a method of documenting non-linear cause/effect relationships, have been used in systems thinking and, in particular, system dynamics for some time. However, their use is still controversial though they have been found to be useful in developing an understanding of complex, non-linear systems. These systems encompass many organizational and social problem areas.
Although causal-loop diagrams have been used by both consultants and practitioners to understand problem areas within organizations, they appear to have been little used in information systems research (or any other discipline of research). This paper provides a critical reflection of the use of causal-loop diagrams within information systems research. It finds that, although they have many limitations and their validity is highly questionable, they are useful during the exploratory stages of a research project in developing research questions, forming initial hypotheses, and gaining an understanding of the dynamics of a problem situation. The paper describes an exercise to develop a model of IS/business alignment, conducted over three sessions, and highlights some research questions not previously considered in the literature that arose as a result of the exercise.
Campbell, Bruce and Avison, David, "Causal-Loop Diagrams in Information Systems Research into Strategic Alignment" (2004). ACIS 2004 Proceedings. Paper 30.