Complexity Image, by Alisa Farr for Letter27. farrimages.com
By David Long, Vitech President
Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.
- Albert Einstein
In virtually any discipline, pursuit, or profession, there is a consistent desire to learn, advance, and to simplify. For systems engineering, it is no different. The breadth of systems engineering is vast, holistic in perspective and spans the entire lifecycle. It is often framed generically to ease its application to the challenge at hand – whether that be a next generation aircraft, a deep space mission, an automobile, a medical device, or a healthcare enterprise. But even this generic framing and description adds perceived complexity as we speak in abstract language with abstract context.
As complexity continues to grow – in the challenges we face; in the products, services, and enterprises that we engineer; in the environments in which we operate and in which we deploy our systems – there is a renewed push for simplification and simplicity in systems engineering. “We cannot solve complexity with complexity” is the mantra. After all, we need to accelerate the application and increase the breadth of understanding, and simplicity aids both.
But not all simplicity is helpful. Sometimes, in our pursuit of simplicity, we lose key concepts and ideas, damaging the application of systems engineering rather than easing and accelerating it. Simplification of any given topic or any given method can be done poorly with a loss in fidelity, but there are some areas where we should pursue simplicity and some that are bound for trouble.
As we advance the practice of systems engineering, where should we pursue simplicity? More...