It is a great pleasure to introduce this inaugural edition of Systems Thinking: Coping with 21st Century Problems by John Boardman and Brian Sauser. In response to the increasing relevance of “systems thinking” to global challenges from terrorism to energy to clean water to healthcare, these authors provide a unique perspective on the word “system.” A perspective that causes us to rethink its meaning and rationale, and to reconnect, in a conscious and explicit manner, with the inherent opportunities and difficulties with a “systems approach.” This is increasingly necessary for us to address the seemingly intractable systems problems within our society.
The authors first provide the context to systems thinking from an engineering systems point of view, and then extrapolate their discussion to problems that are decidedly societal, where engineering and technology is just an element of an overarching solution. While the authors present pragmatic mechanisms to understand and address co-evolving systems problems and solutions, the primary contribution of this textbook is to initiate critical thinking within the reader while addressing such problems in an attempt to encourage “a systems response.” Within an environment where the treatment of subjects such as systems engineering and systems architecting and systems thinking take on a decidedly linear approach, this is a most nonlinear treatment of the subject.
This textbook is ideally suited for business, organizational, and technical leaders as well as political and social leaders. It can serve as a primary text for courses on systems thinking and critical thinking, and as a complementary text for courses on systems engineering and systems architecting. The material in this text represents significant research conducted by the authors in the application of systems engineering and systems thinking principles to engineering systems and enterprise systems, and has benefited from student feedback from multiple courses taught on related subjects by both Boardman and Sauser.