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PPI at the EMEA Workshop and Systems Engineering Conference 2023



PPI were proud to be Gold Sponsors at this event and were represented by Trudy King, Kim Taylor, and Michael Gainford.

René King and Michael Gainford co-authored a short presentation that was well-received – see later.

The event took place in the city of Sevilla, Spain, and we were fortunate that it coincided with the annual festival known as Feria de Abril. There were some wonderful national costumes in evidence! Around the World, many such traditions have been kept up for centuries. Perhaps we should ask how many will survive another century given the global warming threat? It was ironic that the conference week coincided with the hottest April on record in Spain.

The main theme of the conference was that systems approaches should play a key role in achieving the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs):

THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development (un.org)

These goals are becoming more and more talked about as a way of driving our decisions. They demonstrate the aligned thinking of our World leaders as they “recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests”.

Some of the key topics included:

  • INCOSE Vision 2035
  • Digital Threads for the engineering of sustainable products
  • Empowering women leaders, and awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion
  • The Future of Systems Engineering (FuSE) initiative
  • UAE’s Green House Gas reduction pathways
  • Interoperable smart and sustainable urban energy systems
  • Impact of the forthcoming update to the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook
  • Smart cities and the UN SDGs
  • Natural systems
  • Explainable artificial intelligence
  • Generating a collaborative Systems Thinking culture
  • Leading for a sustainable future
  • Transformation challenges in transportation
  • Extending SE to address climate change
  • Human System Integration for sustainability
  • Architecting sustainable systems

PPI’s short presentation

René King and Michael Gainford co-authored a short presentation entitled “A demonstration of the power of Systems Engineering and Systems Thinking to frame and solve important human challenges”.

This used as a case study the ongoing crisis with electrical power supply in South Africa. The problem is not so much the problem itself, but more to do with how we can solve such problems. Three main challenges with this were identified:

  • Inappropriate goals
  • Aversion to change
  • Technology blinkers

Regarding the inappropriate goals, we now have the UN SDGs to steer us toward a more sustainable World, which gives us hope

To help with the natural human aversion to change, we can turn to authors like William Bridges and John Kotter.

This leaves us to discuss the 3rd challenge, “technology blinkers”. National infrastructure problems are often understood through the 6 PESTLE dimensions (Political, Economic, Social, Technical, Legal and Environmental). Very often, the “T” dimension is the easiest to deal with (or close to irrelevant), whilst many in the engineering professions shy away from the other five. The presentation illustrated this tendency with the following image.

Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering are complementary schools of thought, and the presentation concluded with a plea for a more joined-up application of these techniques in pursuing the UN SDGs.


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