1PARADOXICAL MINDSET

It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it’s entertaining.

– Courtney Wright on being a systems engineer

In 2007, Art Pyster attended a strategy session for the then new School of Systems and Enterprises at Stevens Institute of Technology. Faculty there were largely focused on the research and educational programs of either the “Systems” or the “Enterprises” aspects of the school. In a eureka moment, one of the faculty members said we were focused on the wrong thing. “Systems” were important, “Enterprises” were important, but the true strength of the school was the “and” that joins them. It was the juxtaposition and relationship between the two disciplines that would give the new school its greatest opportunity. A similar truth can be said about systems engineers. Systems engineers are “and” people. They understand the “big picture” and the details. They communicate well with engineers and executives. They know how to analyze complexity and how to design for simplicity. They balance budgets and make technical trade‐offs. They appreciate both the abstract and the concrete. The term we use for this uncommon and proficiency is paradoxical mindset the ability to comfortably hold in your head and balance seemingly competing or contradictory concepts. Highly effective systems engineers are masters of paradoxical mindset.

Systems engineers play an increasingly important role in the twenty‐first century because systems are ever more interconnected, more complex, and ...

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