1st Edition

Bigger Pictures for Innovation Creating Solutions, Managing Enterprises, and Influencing Policies

By William B. Rouse Copyright 2023
    220 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    220 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    220 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    Continue Shopping

    This book comprises a set of stories about being an engineer for many decades and the lessons the author learned from research and practice. These lessons focus on people and organizations, often enabled by technology. The settings range from airplanes, power plants, and communication networks to ecosystems that enable education, healthcare, and transportation. All of these settings are laced with behavioral and social phenomena that need to be understood and influenced.

    The author’s work in these domains has often led to the question: "Well, why does it work like that?" He invariably sought to understand the bigger picture to find the sources of requirements, constraints, norms, and values. He wanted to understand what could be changed, albeit often with much effort to overcome resistance.

    He found that higher levels of an ecosystem often provide the resources and dictate the constraints imposed on lower levels. These prescriptions are not just commands. They also reflect values and cultural norms. Thus, the answers to the question were not just technical and economic. Often, the answers reflected eons of social and political priorities. The endeavors related in the book frequently involved addressing emerging realities rather than just the status quo. This book is an ongoing discovery of these bigger pictures.

    The stories and the lessons related in this book provide useful perspectives on change. The understanding of people and organizations that emerges from these lessons can help to enable transformative change. Fundamental change is an intensely human-centric endeavor, not just for the people and organizations aspiring to change, but also for the people helping them. You will meet many of these people in this book as the stories unfold.

    The genesis of this book originated in a decision made early in the author’s career. He had developed a habit of asking at the end of each day, "What did I really accomplish today?" This was sometimes frustrating as he was not sure the day had yielded any significant accomplishments. One day it dawned on him that this was the wrong question – He needed to ask, "What did I learn today?" It is always possible to learn, most recently about public health and climate change.

    In planning this book, the author first thought in terms of accomplishments such as projects conducted, systems built, and articles and books published. He could not imagine this being interesting to readers. Then, it struck him – It is much more interesting to report on what he learned about people and organizations, including how he helped them accomplish their goals. This is a book of stories about how these lessons emerged.


    In planning this book, the author first thought in terms of accomplishments such as projects conducted, systems built, and articles and books published. He could not imagine this being interesting to readers. Then, it struck him – It is much more interesting to report on what he learned about people and organizations, including how he helped them accomplish their goals. This is a book of stories about how these lessons emerged.

    Chapter 1: Introduction & Overview

    Chapter 2: Human Behavior & Performance

    Chapter 3: Organizational & Economic Performance

    Chapter 4: Design of Training & Aiding

    Chapter 5: Human-Centered Design

    Chapter 6: Advisor Series of Software Tools

    Chapter 7: Enterprise Transformation

    Chapter 8: Healthcare & Education

    Chapter 9: Modeling & Visualization

    Chapter 10: Complex Societal Systems

    Chapter 11: Looking Back


    William B. Rouse is Research Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, as well as Senior Fellow in the office of the Senior Vice President for Research, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Principal at Curis Meditor, a firm focused on the health of people, processes, organizations, and society. His research focuses on understanding and managing complex public-private systems such as healthcare delivery, higher education, transportation, and national security, with emphasis on mathematical and computational modeling of these systems for the purpose of policy design and analysis.

    Rouse has written hundreds of articles and book chapters, and has authored many books, including most recently Transforming Public-Private Ecosystems (Oxford, 2022), Failure Management (Oxford, 2021), Computing Possible Futures (Oxford, 2019), Universities as Complex Enterprises (Wiley, 2016), Modeling and Visualization of Complex Systems and Enterprises (Wiley, 2015), Understanding and Managing the Complexity of Healthcare (MIT Press, 2014), Economic Systems Analysis and Assessment (Wiley, 2011), People and Organizations: Explorations of Human-Centered Design (Wiley, 2007), Essential Challenges of Strategic Management (Wiley, 2001) and the award-winning Don’t Jump to Solutions (Jossey-Bass, 1998). He has edited or co-edited numerous books including Perspectives on Complex Global Challenges (Wiley, 2016), Engineering the System of Healthcare Delivery (IOS Press, 2010), The Economics of Human Systems Integration (Wiley, 2010), Enterprise Transformation: Understanding and Enabling Fundamental Change (Wiley, 2006), Organizational Simulation: From Modeling & Simulation to Games & Entertainment (Wiley, 2005), the best-selling Handbook of Systems Engineering and Management (Wiley, 1999, 2009), and the eight-volume series Human/Technology Interaction in Complex Systems (Elsevier).

    Among many advisory roles, he has served as Chair of the Committee on Human Factors (now Board on Human Systems Integration) of the National Academies, a member of the advisory committee for the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Academies, a member of the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, and a member of the DoD Senior Advisory Group on Modeling and Simulation. He has been designated a lifetime National Associate of the National Research Council and National Academies.

    Rouse is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and has been elected a fellow of four professional societies -- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS), and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES). Rouse received his B.S. from the University of Rhode Island, and his S.M. and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Grand stories on learning and innovation at the crossroads of serendipity.

    • Katy Borner, PhD, Victor H. Yngve Professor of Engineering & Information Science, Indiana University at Bloomington


    If you seek to learn from a master, then Bill Rouse is your dream teacher. He is a renaissance person who combines deep technical skills in mathematical modeling analysis of complex human-run systems with comparable knowledge of broad system context — with all its complexities and nuances. His book marches through his life experiences, providing lessons learned — with his many successes and a few misses. His life adventures demonstrate vividly how one should embrace taking risks, delving deeply into new and complex new problem areas, even when having no previous experience on those problems. The structured analytical approach leads to innovative solutions.

    • Richard C. Larson, PhD, Mitsui Professor of Data, Systems, and Society, MIT


    Wise and technically sophisticated, practical and insightful, and based on an overwhelming amount of personal research and practical implementation, Bill Rouse has provided us with a 50-year perspective on problem solving using both advanced mathematical modeling and careful attention to human needs, aspirations, and requirements. For those interested in dysfunction, crises, and subsequent change for the better, Rouse’s models, analysis, and extensive examples offer a primer for process, analysis, and action, emphasizing always the imperative to understand the who, what, how, and why of every challenge or opportunity. His deep personal and successful engagement in multiple initiatives, enterprises, and consultancies has given Rouse a unique perspective, and his multiple publications testify to the impact of these experiences. Numerous real-world cases provide the opportunity for this development of a complex, if fundamental, set of guidelines for addressing the challenges of private, public, and systemic enterprises. This book is required reading for those who want to understand the system imperatives for enhanced performance both now and in the future.

    • John V. Lombardi, PhD, President Emeritus, University of Florida


    A technical page-turner, probably the only engineering book that you will read cover to cover. With this professional memoir, Bill Rouse weaves intriguing, personal and professional history - as vital context - into 'how and why' so many of his multitudes of projects progressed so successfully from concept to full strategic adoption. The "play-by-play" project descriptions, illuminated with fascinating "color commentary" provide hard-earned project management insight in a literary fashion that even non-scientists will breeze through, feeling one "I’ll be darn" after another.

    • Dennis K. McBride, PhD, President Emeritus, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies


    Few people are as well-equipped as Bill Rouse to write such a remarkable compendium, not only of innovations today, buy of how we got there and where we might be going in the future. His vast personal experience in multiple areas and his mastery of systems analysis allowed him to provide a global vision of evolution of technologies and societies and to link such diverse domains as technologies, business, medicine, and human behaviors. This vast perspective allows him to capture the enormous transformations of societies and the future possibilities. Indeed, this is a unique book that should enrich social perspectives, and support key decisions about policies made today, that will affect our future and that of our children.

    • Elisabeth Pate-Cornell, PhD, Burt and Deedee McMurtry Professor, Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University


    An insightful presentation on how to derive impactful contributions to society, organizations and individuals based on the distinguished scholarly and practical experience of the author.

    • Gavriel Salvendy, PhD, University Distinguished Professor, University of Central Florida, Founding President, Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida.


    Bill Rouse is a system modeler par excellence. He has provided us with a review of his professional career combined with a description of his modeling achievements in multiple domains, ranging from human-interaction with low level systems, business and government enterprises, and large-scale societal systems such as health care. In each case he has provided the reader with valuable insights in defining the problems, dealing with stakeholders, developing analyses and recommendations, and modeling philosophy in general.

    • Thomas B. Sheridan, PhD, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Psychology Emeritus, MIT


    Bill Rouse applies an engineer modeler’s questions and tools to help stakeholders identify intrinsic and extrinsic factors that will determine the outcomes of their decisions. This extraordinary book combines a warm personal story of his professional evolution with memorable case examples and pithy lessons. His insights bridge the disciplines of human-centered design, economics, sociology and policy; and span sectors of health care, education, energy and security. It is a must read for anyone interested in tackling large scale change, whether at the level of an enterprise or society.

    • William W. Stead, MD, McKesson Foundation Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine, Chief Strategy Officer (ret), Vanderbilt University Medical Center


    Thanks to my friendship with Professor Rouse, I have heard numerous snippets of what is in this book over countless lunches and dinners – however, for the first time, this book provides a complete story and context of his evolution from a kid in Rhode Island to a doctoral student at MIT, and then an academic leader at some of the top universities in the US and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Furthermore, while many may share a variation on his life story – tinkering with toys, tools, and cars, and then evolving into a stellar career in engineering – very few take the time to provide an easily accessible narrative along with priceless insights and reflections. This book is a joy to read, and I believe would be an inspirational guide to many middle and high school kids. This should be on the reading list of all school counselors and parents. I enjoyed reading this!

    • Dinesh Verma, Ph.D., Professor, School of Systems & Enterprises (SSE), Executive Director, Systems Engineering Research Center, Executive Director, Acquisition Innovation Research Center