Accelerating through Adversity

Technical program highlights

President Invited Content

I am very excited to bring to you the President Invited Content (PIC) sessions for IS2021. It is a great slate covering topics that I believe you will find interesting and will help prepare us to tackle those big complex problems. Who has not in their career had to take an existing system and make it more resilient, sustainable and integrate it with other existing systems? How proficient are you in applying Systems Thinking to help minimise uncertainty? And Grand Challenges - when viewed as a system the interconnections are prolific. Adding guidance to implementing a Digital Engineering approach can support each of these topics and completes the PIC slate. 

You will also find the format of each of these topics provides great diversity and the opportunity to interact with the presenters. There will be short presentations, panels and discussions groups just to name a few. Plus the global breadth and depth of experience of the presenters is great. I am truly looking forward to participating at these sessions and I hope to see you there.

Kerry Lunney

Kerry Lunney, INCOSE President


Monday July 19 - 12:30 EDT

Viewing Grand Challenges as a System

Led by: Erika Palmer, Tom McDermott

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The National Academy of Engineering published a list of fourteen Grand Challenges which fall into four cross-cutting societal themes: sustainability, health, security, and joy of living.

INCOSE’s Vision 2025 describes a framework coupling societal needs to systems challenges, then to gaps in the capabilities of Systems Engineering. “Global trends include changes to both socioeconomic conditions and changes in our physical environment. These global changes impose new demands on the types of systems that are needed, yet are often impacted by the very technology and system developments meant to satisfy the human needs. For example, increased population growth and urbanization impose new challenges on transportation, health, and other modern infrastructures, while at the same time, systems solutions and technology itself can adversely impact air and water quality.

Vision 2025 continues: “Large and often complex engineered systems are key to addressing the Grand Challenges and satisfying human and social needs that are physical, psychological, economic and cultural.” Grand Challenge themes should address a scope which covers all aspects of the system outcomes whoever they are delivered by. Enterprises must consider the balance of finite resources and trade-offs across the full scope; how to set the necessary level of human and technical integration; and the need to remain viable within environmental factors and possible threats.  All decisions must consider what is acceptable within the social context in which they sit.

With this in mind, this panel will highlight the intersection of grand challenge areas, particularly with respect to human and social needs.


Tuesday July 20 - 12:30 EDT

Digital Engineering Approach


Wednesday July 21 - 12:30 EDT

Using Systems Thinking to add value - in these uncertain times

Led by: Charlotte Dunford

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The intersection of three global crises: Pandemic AND Climate Change AND Global Pollution, provides the opportunity for INCOSE to innovatively learn together. Culture develops through the network of conversations it stimulates. Emergence outcomes can spread globally at extraordinary rates and scales. These three crises can no longer be ignored because their impact is felt on a global scale. The buffers of time and space that our planet provides have been depleted so we are seeing the emergent effects in global crises. There is a growing need to focus not just on symptoms, but on underlying patterns, architectures and root causes; to understand mental models that drive these and thereby mitigate the dangers from unintended consequences and turn crises into opportunities.
These are complex problems. Systemic frameworks have evolved heuristically to help people make sense of such complex problems. These include the “Systemic View of Complex Challenges” and Cynefin. When heuristics is placed in the context of the whole, the systems science framework gives deeper meaning.
INCOSE, in collaboration with ISSS, has been working to create a holistic framework for systems science. Its purpose is to provide the means to organise the pursuit and practice of systems knowledge as a learning system. Systems engineering experience has played a vital role in shaping the framework and when our heuristics are placed in the context of the whole, new insights and connections emerge. With the application of these approaches, greater fidelity, and performance in our systems engineering discipline is anticipated. It is exciting that a framework now exists and it will be used as part of this learning experience.
AND with the art of harmonisation, a systems approach can stimulate global collaborative actions that will modify behaviours and enable us to learn to mitigate the dangers. Crisis is thereby turned into opportunity.


Thursday July 22 - 12:30 EDT

The next Systems Challenge: Developing resilient, effective, inclusive, sustainable societal systems of systems

Led by: Anne O’Neil and Duncan Kemp

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The modern world has a range of interconnected challenges. Global peak population expected to reach 9.7Bn in the next 40-50 years. Societies need to provide food, water, housing, healthcare and security at the same time as dealing with climate disruption, unprecedented technological change and ensuring all in society benefit.
We already have well established and complex systems (e.g., transport, information, power, and urban infrastructure). Each of these systems have clear supply chain networks, consumers, markets and regulators. In modern societies each of these are, in themselves complex systems of systems, which in turn form part of a wider system of systems.
This complex, and undesigned, network of different systems faces specific challenges. It is inefficient, both financially and in terms of carbon consumption. It is fragile, with failures in one system threatening a cascade of failures across apparently unrelated systems. Finally, it is opaque, potentially disadvantaging some groups over others.
This interactive session will seek to explore the explore the nature of these systems we are seeking to develop, and identify the future Systems Engineering approaches that we will need to develop to meet these challenges.