Systems thinking research - principles and methodologies to grapple with complex real world problems

M Yearworth, AJ Terry, PS Godfrey, G Edwards

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

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Topic – Systems thinking (see the INCOSE UK Z7 Guide) provides a common language for needs driven process integration. We take the thinking further and present the principles and methodologies used by the Systems Centre to integrate research processes drawn from fields as diverse as physical and social science, engineering, and business management, and use case examples to demonstrate how they can be applied in engineering systems where ‘soft’ institutional, cultural, people related and process integration barriers can be key drivers of complexity. Points – i) From recent work between Research Engineers and practitioners a unifying framework for highly effective systems thinking research has been developed founded on seven principles: purposefulness; balance of breadth and depth; harnessing diversity; clarifying boundaries; building confidence and momentum for change; communicating in the language of stakeholders; and stimulating further learning. ii) These principles underpin the development and teaching of practically oriented systems research methodologies by the Systems Centre, which allow problems associated with complex real-world systems to be addressed. iii) Industry partners are the Systems Centre stakeholders and each project undertaken by a Research Engineer is driven by stakeholder needs and guided by these principles and methodologies. iv) The Systems Centre now has 4 cohorts of Research Engineers comprising a total of 50 research projects with 30 companies covering a wide range of topics including sustainability, process improvement and decision support, safety, and new product development. These all have an emphasis on solving real world systems problems in a rigorous fashion in timescales appropriate to the needs of our industrial partners. Examples will be given to illustrate the approach.
Translated title of the contributionSystems thinking research - principles and methodologies to grapple with complex real world problems
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationINCOSE UK Annual Systems Engineering Conference (ASEC 2010). Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, UK
PublisherInternational Council on Systems Engineering UK (INCOSE UK)
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2010
EventAnnual Systems Engineering Conference (ASEC) - Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Nov 2010 → …


ConferenceAnnual Systems Engineering Conference (ASEC)
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityChipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Period10/11/10 → …

Bibliographical note

Conference Organiser: International Council on Systems Engineering UK (INCOSE UK)
Rose publication type: Conference contribution

Contributor (Other): International Council on Systems Engineering UK (INCOSE UK)


  • systems research
  • systems thinking
  • systems engineering
  • systems practice
  • holism
  • purpose
  • stakeholder needs
  • alignment
  • research methods
  • pedagogy
  • engineering doctorate

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