Principles of Complex Systems for Systems Engineering

Sarah A. Sheard
Third Millennium Systems LLC
1027 Challedon Rd. Great Falls VA 22066 (703) 757-7644

This paper shows how three systems of types well-known to systems engineers can be understood as complex systems. This is important because research in complex systems sciences is vibrant and provides critical insight, but if systems engineers do not understand the complex aspects of the systems they work with daily, they may not be able to use these research results. To date, systems engineering has been looking only at exploiting the “order” side of the order-to-chaos spectrum, and it is time now to understand and begin to utilize principles from the middle and from the chaos side of the spectrum. The three examples are INCOSE, the systems engineering process (such as a company’s standard process), and air traffic control. INCOSE represents most volunteer organizations and social groups. Most systems engineers do not realize that the systems engineering process for a company is a network that can be studied by complex systems methods. Air traffic control may come closest to many systems engineers’ definition of a system. This paper provides principles of complex systems based on a variety of sources, and shows the appli¬cation of complex systems to one of the examples.