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5 Perceptual Positions and the Systems Engineer

by dlong

By David Long, Vitech President

A perceptual position is a perspective from which things can be viewed or considered. Perceptual positions … provide us with different information. Imagine viewing something from the north side, and then moving around to view it from the south side. Each of these two perceptual positions supplies us with distinct information. The more complex the situation we are viewing, the more value we receive from looking at it from the other side.

– Gary V. Koyen, Ph.D.

Perceptual Positions

When Richard Bandler and John Grinder introduced the concept of perceptual positions in the 1970s, they did so in the context of neuro-linguistic programming – an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy. In discussing the three major perspectives from which things can be viewed – self, other, and observer – they sought to enhance individual flexibility, wisdom, and resourcefulness within the context of individual interactions and across the lifetime journey of self-discovery and improvement. 

But the concept and value of perceptual positions is not limited to neuro-linguistic programming. Certainly systems engineers are familiar with perspectives as we study both problem and solution from different viewpoints (requirements, behavior, architecture, and test) while blending subject matter expertise to see the whole picture. The five perceptual positions identified by Koyen have special meaning to the systems engineer. While those with a systems perspective and trained in the practice of systems engineering implicitly apply the concepts of perceptual positions, a more explicit consideration of the concepts can improve their application – both to the lives we lead and the systems we build.  More...

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Categories: MBSE | Misc


Human Understanding of Complexity

by zscott

Zane Scott, Vitech Vice President of Professional Services

In the medieval Western world, the universe was widely believed to operate on the basis of the design and subsequent will of its Creator. Its operation was observed and recorded, but the cause and effect of those observations was thought to be the work of a Divine Mover, God.

According to Ptolemy, the principle authority at the time on the movement and arrangement of the heavens, the celestial bodies traveled in spheres which emanated concentrically around the earth. These spheres rotated according to Divine prescription, making a heavenly sound as they moved in relation to each other – the “music of the spheres.”

But then along came Copernicus (and others like Kepler and Galileo) who posited that the rotation of heavenly bodies – in particular the planets – could be explained through the use of formulae which represented physical laws. Moreover, their observations challenged the notion that the earth was the center of the universe and placed the orbits of the planets around the sun instead. Further work led to the discovery of forces (like gravity) that operated on the planets causing them to travel their courses in predictable ways. More...

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Categories: Misc


Limiting Our Thinking: The Challenge of Defining the Opportunity Horizon for Systems Engineering

by zscott

By Zane Scott, Vitech Vice President of Professional Services

Some disciplines are “invented” or, more accurately, “evolve” as ways of solving specific, difficult problems. Principles and techniques are developed to cope with the knotty aspects of such problems. This was the path that led to systems engineering. First discussed by Bell Labs, systems engineering arose across several decades primarily in the aerospace and defense industry as a response to the problems of developing complicated and complex systems such as sophisticated airplanes, ships, and rockets.

Instead of treating these highly technical and intricate projects as a collection of independently developed parts cobbled together into a whole, systems engineering stressed the concept of developing the system together in ways that promoted the performance of the whole. It was in these contexts that the concepts and methods of systems engineering first began to take shape and be refined into the processes that we recognize today as systems engineering practice.

Although there have been some notable attempts to draw the concepts of systems engineering together into the community of systems disciplines (see particularly The Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK) Part 2: Foundations of Systems Engineering, and Sillito, 2012,  Integrating Systems Science, Systems Thinking, and Systems Engineering: Understanding the Differences and Exploiting the Synergies, INCOSE IS 2012, there still exists a division and even a resistance to seeing systems engineering as a “sister” discipline among siblings sharing concepts and frameworks for thinking about problems.  More...


Categories: Misc

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