Designing and Managing Complex Systems

Designing and Managing Complex Systems

1st Edition - September 1, 2022

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  • Author: David Moriarty
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780323916097

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Human Performance in Complex Systems introduces readers to the theory of complex systems, examining the role of humans within larger systems and the factors that affect human performance. Sections review the history of one particularly fruitful approach to complexity, providing an overview of complexity science that also discusses our current understanding of complex systems in a variety of domains, including physical, biological, mechanical and organizational. The author also introduces the idea that there are similarities between the successful architecture and control of both biological and organizational systems. Case studies concerning failures and successes within complex systems are also included. The book concludes by using the preceding material to develop principles that can be applied for successful design and control of complex systems.

Key Features

  • Provides an overview of the background and scope of complexity science
  • Reviews our current understanding of complex systems in a variety of domains (physical, biological, mechanical and organizational)
  • Introduces the idea of similarities between the architecture and control of both biological and organizational systems
  • Includes case studies that demonstrate the failures and successes within complex systems


Researchers and students interested in complex systems and decision making

Table of Contents

  • PART 1 Control and Communication
    Chapter 1. Introduction
    1. Norbert Wiener
    a. National Defence Research Committee
    b. Macy Conferences and the Birth of Cybernetics
    2. Ross Ashby
    a. Design for a Brain
    b. Law of Requisite Variety
    3. Stafford Beer
    a. Viable Systems Model and Project Cybersyn
    4. Cybernetics Today

    PART 2 Complex Systems: The State of the Art
    Chapter 2: The Simplification Imperative

    Chapter 3: The Language of Systems
    a. The Interlocking Systems of Reality
    b. Structure and Function of Complex Systems
    c. The Natural Dynamics of Complex Systems
    d. The Need for Complex Systems – Law of Requisite Variety
    e. When Does a System Become Complex? – Tractability and Effective Complexity

    Chapter 4: The Systems Kingdom
    a. The Self-Organising Universe
    b. The Biological Big Bang
    c. The Systems of Societies
    d. Engineered Systems
    e. Sociotechnical Systems

    Chapter 5: Neurobiological Systems
    a. Function of the Nervous System
    b. Introduction to Neurodevelopment and Neuroanatomy
    c. Scales in Neurobiology
    d. Neural Dynamics
    e. ACT-R: How Structure Gives Rise to Function
    f. Levels of Performance
    g. The Autonomic Nervous System and Allostasis
    h. Decentralised Control, Reflexes and the Reticular Activating System

    Chapter 6: Sociotechnical Systems
    i. Scales in STS
    j. Industrial Organisations and Time and Motion Research
    k. Taylorism and Requisite Metasystems
    l. Perrow’s Coordinate System
    m. Rasmussen’s System Model
    n. Modern Sociotechnical Systems

    Chapter 7: Consilient System Dynamics Across Scales

    Part 3 The Emergence of Failure and Success

    Chapter 8: Human Failure Modes and Normal Accident Theory

    Chapter 9: System Success and Failures
    a. Global Financial Crash – Breaking Ashby’s Law
    b. Virgin Galactic Crash – Beyond Pilot Error
    c. The Alpha Floor – From Habsheim to Hudson
    d. Fukushima Daiichi – Structured Failure and Dynamic Success
    e. Flash Crash – Ultrahigh Coupling
    f. Black Hawks Down – 1994 Friendly Fire Accident – Procedural Drift
    g. Columbia Crash – Trade-Offs in the Space Shuttle Programme
    h. The Marquis and the Earthquake - Implementation
    i. Walmart and Katrina - Letting Go of Control
    j. Continental Airlines – From Bureaucracy to Manoeuvrability
    k. Safe Surgery Checklist – Safety by Design
    l. The Sequence – The Human Genome Project and Minimum Gene Complements
    m. Big Data – The Large Hadron Collider – Algedonic Sensitivity
    n. The Water Temples of Bali – Sustained Adaptability
    o. The Chilean Experiment – Cybersyn and the Truck Strike
    p. Adaptive Outbreaks – Biological and Informational Viruses

    Part 4 Design and Management of Complex Systems

    Chapter 10: Designing System Structures a. Revised Viable Systems Model b. Recursion

    Chapter 11: Planning Component and Subsystem Functions
    a. Parameters Governing Component Function
    b. Capacity for Manoeuvre
    c. 10 Principles of Adaptive Capacity
    d. Adaptive Capacity as a Variety Amplifier

    Chapter 12: Managing Operational Resilience
    a. Work-as-Imagined versus Work-as-Done
    b. The Ever-Shifting Operating Point
    c. Characteristics of Complex Systems
    d. The 4 Cornerstones of Operational Resilience
    e. The Dynamics of Failure
    f. Markers of Success

    Chapter 13: Conclusion
    a. Summary of Principles
    b. Consilience with the Arts
    c. Systems Thinking and the Function of Humans

Product details

  • No. of pages: 325
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2022
  • Published: September 1, 2022
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780323916097

About the Author

David Moriarty

David Moriarty initially trained as a doctor and during his medical training he undertook a BSc (Hons) in Neuroscience graduating with first class honors and having his research findings published in the British Journal of Neurosurgery. He graduated the Imperial College School of Medicine in 2004 after being awarded the Hawker Scholarship for highest preclinical examination results. His interest in neuroscience and the neurobiological basis of complex behavior led him to begin neurosurgical training before subsequently deciding to try an alternative career in aviation. He started flying for CityJet in 2007, became a captain in 2012 and subsequently became a training captain (a pilot that trains other pilots on the ground and in the cockpit). He is currently flying as a captain with easyJet. Much of the research into the complexity of both human performance and system design focuses on safety-critical industries such as nuclear, healthcare and aviation. After two years working in aviation, David became involved with Human Factors training, human factors being the scientific discipline that looks at how human performance and system design can be optimized. A year later, he became Chief Human Factors Instructor for CityJet. In order to improve his knowledge of human factors he completed a master’s degree in Human Factors and Safety Assessment in Aeronautics at Cranfield University with a specialist interest in Resilience Engineering and safety management in complex systems. Prior to starting the course he was awarded a Royal Aeronautical Society Centennial Scholarship and he graduated from Cranfield with the Course Director’s Prize for achieving the highest overall results in his class. He has published and presented work in the fields of neurosurgery, complex system management and aeronautical safety and also runs Zeroharm Solutions, a consultancy specializing in medical and aeronautical human factors. David is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Resilience Engineering Association and is part of SCiO, Systems and Cybernetics in Organizations. His first book, Practical Human Factors for Pilots was released on 15th January 2015 and is published by Academic Press, part of the Elsevier group. His approach to this current project is the same as his approach to his first book: to take the best science that is available across a wide range of disciplines and present it to the reader in an integrated, interesting and, most importantly, useful way.

Affiliations and Expertise

Zeroharm Solutions, London, UK

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