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.