1Systemic Thinking and Complex Problem Solving

We live in a highly complex, technological world – and it's not entirely obvious what's right and what is wrong in any given situation, unless you can parse the situation, deconstruct it. People just don't have the insight to be able to do that very effectively.

Christopher Langan

1.1 Introduction

The world's population continues to increase rapidly, which causes technology to develop at a geometric pace. Modern communication systems offer each of us overwhelming mountains of information, much of which is disorganized, not relevant, redundant, or inaccurate, and thus may well provide more confusion than clarity. We are faced with the necessity to wrestle with and solve many large-scale problems if we are to maintain sources of clean water, clean air, food, energy, adequate medical services, political stability, and a civilized social structure. Improving the condition of our world will prove even more difficult.

The area of study known as complexity is a very popular area of research. Complexity arises from the nature of large interconnected systems and is escalated by the background, personal characteristics, and perspectives of the individuals working on the design teams. It is important for designers to understand complexity and how it affects the understanding and projection of system behavior. It is also important to manage complexity so that it does not overwhelm the design effort and prevent the development of effective ...

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