Designing sustainability programs to avoid and escape the capability trap

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Journal of Simulation


The capability trap relegates organisations to poor performance by preventing feedback loop dominance shifts from working harder to working smarter. Escaping the trap is difficult because of the feedback structure that creates the trap, managerial biases, and delays in exploiting high leverage solutions. Previous research analysed cases of existing systems captured by or escaped from the trap, primarily to identify and explain trapping mechanisms. The current work approaches different by investigating how systems can be designed a priori to avoid or better escape the trap. We modeled a sustainability improvement program that successfully avoided capture and identified escape scenarios. The simulation model analysis identified high leverage improvement design features for trap avoidance and escape. Building efficiency features such as energy-saving effectiveness, decreasing life-cycle costs, increasing improvement lifespans, and conservation effectiveness influence performance. Improvement program design guidelines to escape or avoid the trap are proposed, and future research opportunities are discussed.



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