Complex Systems Working Group

Visit our members-only inet page

Working Group Purpose & Mission


The purpose of the Complex Systems Working Group is to enhance the ability of the systems engineering community to deal with complexity.  The Complex Systems Working Group works at the intersection of complex systems sciences and systems engineering, focusing on systems beyond those for which traditional systems engineering approaches and methods were developed.

Analytic Enablers

TechOps Domain






Dean Beale, Ph.D., c.Eng., C.Phys., MINCOSE, MIET, M.Inst.P.


Ali Raz, Ph.D.

Michael Do, Ph.D.


The Complex Systems Working Group focuses on the challenges and opportunities presented by systems with rich interdependence among diverse components, non-linearity, open systems boundaries, networks of causality and influence (vice linear causal chains), emergence, varied and changing system goals, self-organization, and multi-level adaptation.  These traits limit the utility of traditional systems engineering paradigms, which are generally centralized, goal oriented, requirements driven, and reductionist in approach. These traits, however, are increasingly the norm and not the exception. The Complex Systems Working Group collaborates with the Systems Sciences Working Group to define the scientific basis of these characteristics.

Further, complexity is a characteristic of more than just a technical system being developed.  The socio-technical ecosystem in which a system under development will be employed exhibits these attributes, as does the environment that gave rise to the challenge or opportunity to which the system was developed in response.  Further, the design and development of technical systems is a complex endeavor itself.  It is critical for systems engineers to understand the nature of the systems with which they are working, and of which they are a part, to be effective.


The goals of the Complex Systems Working Group are to communicate  complexity characteristics to systems engineering practitioners, provide knowledge and expertise on complex systems in support of other INCOSE working groups working in their systems engineering areas, facilitate the identification of tools and techniques to apply in the engineering of complex systems, and provide a map of the current, diverse literature on complex systems to those interested in gaining an understanding of complexity.  


    System Engineering Heuristics of Complex Systems, published at IS2022

    –First set of Complex System Heuristics

    –First Working Group to collaborate with Heuristics Team to produce a set of Heuristics in a Systems Engineering Discipline Area

    •Received 2016 Product of the Year Award for A Complexity Primer for Systems Engineers

    •Released Revision 1 of A Complexity Primer for Systems Engineers in November 2021

    -Updated System Complexity section based on 2021 Revision of Primer

    -Reviewed Draft for consistency in use of Complexity and Complex Systems based on Complexity Primer definitions

    Appreciative Methods Applied to the Assessment of Complex Systems, selected as a recipient of the 29th Annual International Symposium 2019 Best Paper Award

    IW24: International Workshop Outcome

    CSWG supported the Safer Complex Systems initiative, running 2 workshops developing a draft 5 step process product for INCOSE.

    Teams were formed to lead on the following activities:

    - Version 2 of the Complexity Primer

    - " A field guide for really difficult complex problems"

    - A scrub of the SEBoK

    - Systematic literature assessment of handling complexity approaches (Journal paper)

    - A review of Cynefin framework

    - Complex systems bibliography

    -Development of complexity characterization tool

    If you wish to engage in any of these activities please make contact with the CSWG at [email protected]

    Planned Activities

    • Continue revision of Complex Systems Heuristics
    • Webinar on Complex System Heuristics
    • Meeting on Complex System Modeling Evaluation at INCOSE IS 2023
    • Webinar on Complex System Modeling Evaluation
    • Meeting on Artificial Intelligence and Complex Systems at INCOSE IS 2023
    • Development of Complex Systems Methodologies, Approaches, and Management

    Planned Work Products

    • Complex Systems Heuristics
    • Complex Systems Modeling Evaluation Matrix


    Yammer is INCOSE's social media platform for members. Use your INCOSE-issued Microsoft credential to login and join the conversation. INCOSE credentials are in the form of [email protected] or [email protected].   

    Contact Us