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Struggle with complexity in thinking

In 1974, Edsger Dijkstra introduced the concept of separation of concerns as a way of organizing human thoughts about a subject. This principle suggests discussing complex situations in different roles, focusing on one important characteristic at a time while keeping attention on a specific aspect or manifestation of the situation. This does not mean ignoring everything else; it involves holding in focus both one aspect of the problem and the whole problem simultaneously. According to Edsger Dijkstra, this type of thinking is described as "It is being one- and multiple-track minded simultaneously."

This separation of concerns is applied recursively at each of the numerous system levels. At each system level, there are many concerns/important characteristics of the system that are discussed in sequence. Due to emergence, each level of the system starts to exhibit new properties, acquiring new characteristics that need to be discussed. Each system at each system level has multiple concerns.

By splitting the discussion of the system in two main directions, the complexity of describing/discussing the system decreases:

  • Breaking down the full discussion of the entire system into discussing its individual parts by system levels. Each part of the system is simpler than the system as a whole, making discussions more uniform at each level. Each part of the system is described by its utility concept (ConOps or OpsCon), portraying the system as a "black box." This approach disregards the internal structure of the system and its parts, hence discussions always start with the entire systems within the supra system or the entire subsystem within the system.
  • Dividing the complete discussion of each system into discussing through multiple descriptions of different aspects of the system as a transparent box: principles of interaction organization and structure of the system parts. The most significant of these descriptions is the system concept, which includes functional, constructive, and spatial descriptions, among others. During discussions, all other descriptions of the "transparent box" are utilized with precision necessary for manufacturing - these are the "work items" (source codes of software, scripts, 3D models, programs for 3D printer etc.).

Systems of creation will be discussed separately, but more on that later. Nevertheless, systems thinking also requires keeping them in mind!

A detailed discussion on the various aspects of huge complex systems principially (due to the essence of the systemic approach) can be broken down into sufficiently smaller parts, ensuring that no part of this discussion is forgotten, and no description is overlooked. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Systematic thinking is inherently collaborative, allowing the division of both mental (in design) and physical (in manufacturing and operation) work, engaging multiple individuals for various project roles, and detailed deliberation on the system parts at all system levels for each role interest at every system level.

But how do we agree on how to assemble all these different descriptions of various parts of the system into a unified system description? How do we get all these roles and their performers on the same page? All these descriptions can be harmonized by understanding that they describe the same position in space-time, related to the same system realization. At the core of any system discussion lies the physical system realization, considered at the operational moment (run-time), with all other reasoning linked to it.

Without a systemic approach, it is impossible to successfully execute complex projects involving a large number of different specialists within the agreed timeframe; the system will be unsuccessful, as someone's interests will not be met (i.e., forgotten, lost: the team will not pay attention to them!), resulting in errors within the system. People will not be satisfied with its performance, or with the project creating the system (they will not be satisfied with the creation systems).

Systems are discussed one part at a time, one description of the part at a time - never losing sight of the whole system in its environment, as well as its system of creation.