Chapter 10Exploring Concept Trade-Offs

Azad M. Madni

Systems Architecting and Engineering and Astronautical Engineering, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Adam M. Ross

Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative (SEAri), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA


There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.

Ansel Adams

10.1 Introduction

Systems engineering is undergoing a transformation motivated by both challenges and opportunities. The challenges are posed by increasing system scale and complexity. The opportunities are afforded by advances in computing and communication and social media (Madni, 2015d). Specifically, a major shift is underway that requires systems engineering to go beyond the “how” to the “why.” In particular, systems engineering is going beyond traditional process prescriptions, with checkbox steps, to the creation of a framework that supports decision space definition, expansion, exploration, and explanation. This is a major shift in that today's SE process-driven approach comes with implied assumptions and “shallow” thinking. When things go awry, the process is invariably blamed. In sharp contrast, an “explore and explain” approach seeks to formalize systems engineering while grounding it in theoretical foundations. At the heart of today's thinking about systems engineering is identification of the opportunity space (Chapter 6), definition and expansion ...

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