19–22 August 2019
JW Marriott, Indianapolis, Indiana

AIAA Complex Aerospace Systems Exchange (CASE) Workshop

Systems Thinking for Complexity: Emerging Trends, Practical Applications, and the Development of Modern Aerospace Systems

7-8 July 2018
0800 - 1700 hrs

Member - Early (until 18 June) $260
Member - Standard $360
Conference Rate $460

Register Here


This workshop covers the basics of systems thinking for addressing complexity in the development of modern aerospace systems. Applying a systems approach provides insight into the unexpected ways a system will behave due to complexity. Learning how to deal with scale, interdependencies, and interconnectedness in large systems is the main focus of the workshop. Using multiple points-of-view in design gives practicing engineers more information with which to view and manipulate system properties. Complexity-focused methodologies exist for other industries and are being adapted for aerospace. Cynefin has created a framework of domains that categorize problems and solution types. Knowledge management, using input from people who interact with the system at all points in the life cycle, enables a more complete engineering solution. Looking at organizational structures and dynamics, as well as case studies in aerospace, provides a practical mechanism to uncover leverage points for complexity management.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Explain the causes of emergent behavior
  • Determine whether a problem is in the simple, complicated, complex, or chaotic domain
  • Compare systems thinking and systems engineering historically and currently
  • Apply Senge's Fifth Discipline (systems thinking) to engineering problem-solving methodology
  • Demonstrate how to apply complex adaptive systems to real engineering problems
  • Synthesize methods used in other industries to imagine a complexity solution that could be compatible with hardware-focused engineered systems

Workshop Outline:

  1. How Complexity Affects Aerospace
    • Griffin's Elegant Design
    • Definition of Complexity and Emergent Behavior
    • Linear vs Nonlinear Thinking
    • Development of Systems Engineering and Systems Thinking  
  2. Thinking in Systems
    • How Perspective Influences your Decisions
    • Meadows Systems Approach to Problem Solving
    • Systems Thinking for Organizations that Learn
    • Time Independent Models
    • System Traps
  3. Guiding Principles for Complexity
    • INCOSE Primer
    • Underlying Systemic Structure Models
    • Cynefin Domain Categories for Problems and Types of Solutions
  4. Complex Adaptive Systems
    • Addressing Emergent Behavior and Self-Organization
    • Organizations as Complex Adaptive Systems
    • Tragedy of the Commons
  5. Complexity Measurement and Risk Assessment
    • Complexity-Induced Vulnerabilities
    • Circuit Breaker Interventions
    • Coupling and Modularity Aspects of Complexity
  6. Organizational Structures and Complexity
    •  Culture of Normalized Dissent
  7. Case Studies in Aerospace
    • Agile for Aircraft Systems Integration
    • Space Shuttle Accident Investigations
  8. Summary and Further Learning Opportunities

Who Should Attend

Intended participants are engineers and aerospace professionals in technical fields who work on large system development. The workshop is applicable to employees who are interested in tools to manage complexity as a way to address late test failures and improve program outcomes.

The workshop is not geared toward a specific technical field, rather to engineers and leaders who work on large system development, including systems engineers. The workshop will benefit anyone interested in understanding and managing complexity within aerospace.

Workshop Instructor/Organizer:

Dr. Dianne J DeTurris is Professor of Aerospace Engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. She has taught propulsion courses for 20 years, with a research specialization in hypersonic air breathing propulsion. She also researches global competency for engineers and is an academic scholar for the AIAA Complex Aerospace Systems Exchange (CASE).

Course Materials

Course notes will be made available about one week prior to the course event. You will receive an email with detailed instructions on how to access your course notes. Since course notes will not be distributed on site, AIAA and your course instructor highly recommend that you bring your computer with the course notes already downloaded to the course. 


Please contact Dr. DeTurris for more details about this workshop.

Learn more about the AIAA Complex Aerospace Systems Exchange (Case) here.

More information about workshop registration to come.

Dates to Remember

  • Manuscript Deadline: 15 Jul 2019
  • Early Mem Reg Deadline: 28 Jul 2019
  • Cancellation Deadline: 05 Aug 2019

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