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A living systems approach to product design and development
KTH, Superseded Departments, Machine Design.
2003 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

Product development is a complex activity that involvespeople with different expertise, financial resources,materials, and machines. Organizations that carry out theseprocesses and their products are in fact living and artificialsystems. The concept of system is therefore very important fordealing with complexity of products, and their developmentprocesses. However, the concept of system is not consideredcarefully and scientifically in this context, therefore itsexplanations in design and development literature havelimitations and do not provide sufficient help for those whoare involved in the complex processes of product design anddevelopment.

In this research an attempt is made to show the relevance ofsystems concepts for product development. The purpose of thisresearch is therefore to provide knowledge, and betteralternative points of view that helps to manage complexities ofproducts and product development processes, to improveunderstanding of them, to avoid problems related toconventional thinking, and to complement conventionalmethods.

To provide this knowledge the weaknesses of the conventionalmethods of product development and the strengths ofunconventional systemic methods have been shown. Systemsthinking as an unconventional method has been introduced anddiscussed. These presentations include the need for a newscientific method, the meaning of system, its origin, kinds ofsystems, why, and how systems sciences are applied. Further theneed for and importance of a better theory in product designand development is shown. Living systems theory (LST) isintroduced, and explained. LST’s applications in differentdisciplines are presented. The research includes also adiscussion of the meaning of products, their places in livingsystems and what triggers their design and development.

The importance of creativity, innovation, and lifelonglearning are emphasized and discussed. It has been shown howliving systems theory and other systems sciences can contributeto them. The relevance of how we see the world is discussed andit has been shown how we can and should improve our way ofseeing the world. It has also been shown that information andknowledge are not sufficient. We should also become wiser, andthis requires consideration of the long-term consequences ofour actions and it involves values and judgment.

The results of this research are both descriptive andprescriptive. They provide several contributions, for example,a systemic cube (table) of artifacts (analogous withMendeleyev’s table of elements) as a model for managingcomplexity and for generating creative ideas; and a new conceptof usability engineering, which has been applied in industry indifferent projects. Further a more complete LST based model,which can be used for products and product developmentprocesses (for living and artificial systems), has beenprovided. The research uncovers also neglected aspects of LSTin product design and development and shows how they can beconsidered, these are for example the concepts of alpha- beta-,and gamma-coded information. It has also been shown how we canacquire a more complete understanding of product developmentactivities and how we can improve these processes. Thesecontributions have both academic and industrial relevance andpresent a step in the right direction–improving thequality of life.

Keywords:Product design and development, living systemstheory, needs, managing complexity, modeling, systems thinking,problem solving, creativity, lifelong learning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Maskinkonstruktion , 2003. , vi, 238 p.
Trita-MMK, ISSN 1400-1179 ; 2003:41
Keyword [en]
product design and development, living systems theory, needs, managing complesity, modeling, systems thinking,
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-3654OAI: diva2:9488
Public defence
NR 20140805Available from: 2003-11-26 Created: 2003-11-26Bibliographically approved

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