As technology continues to permeate all aspects of business, society and our personal lives, the possibilities for innovation seem truly endless. But realizing these possibilities requires talent, - the best trained technical talent, - so more than ever, our engineers and scientists are essential to innovation. They must master a wide range of interdisciplinary skills to create effective, resilient systems solutions to the increasingly complex problems they are called on to solve, and be able to recognize those critical enablers and inhibitors to marketplace success that can emerge along the technical, business, organizational, and societal boundaries.
Over the past decade, several studies have considered how to restructure engineering education and other technical educational programs to better equip students with the skills required for 21st century careers. They have all pretty much concluded that a technical education must be more diverse, broad and forward-looking than in the past. Sophisticated applications - such as those increasingly encountered in business, health care, government and education - require the ability to comprehend, synthesize and integrate lots of different factors into a holistic, human-oriented design. This is very complex indeed.
When examining educational programs that address complex systems, one finds that universities generally do a pretty good job of teaching the base, foundational skills. However, a proper education in complex systems should be complemented with concrete, real-life examples or case studies of how businesses and other institutions are using engineering systems to address complex problems in their organizations.
That is why the Innovation Lecture Series: Engineering Systems Solutions to Real World Challenges was organized. The series is co-sponsored by MIT's Engineering Systems Division and IBM University Relations as part of its Skills for the 21st Century initiative. In each seminar, a business or technical leader will discuss a real-life example of how they leveraged advanced technologies and how they applied disciplined systems and management thinking to a variety of problems in their organizations. Acting in my role as Visiting Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT, I host the seminars and moderate the Q&A session.