National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Beyond Biomimicry to Systems Mimicry

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INCOSE NSWG Community of Practice Webinar

Friday, August 19, 2016   12:00 – 1:00 p.m. CDT

Beyond Biomimicry to Systems Mimicry:  Using Evidence from the Natural Sciences to Design Better Systems

Dr. Len Troncale, Professor Emeritus, California State Polytechnic University


This presentation introduces Systems Processes Theory (SPT), suggests similarities and differences between the established biomimicry and the proposed systems mimicry; and outlines how SPT can provide a framework for integrating the dispersed results of several systems and natural science knowledge bases.

This integration is essential to solving some of our most pressing social problems because they involve knowledge of BOTH the inextricably linked natural systems and the human systems involved in causing the problems.

The sciences study natural phenomena using experimental methods. This paper proposes to use their vast data to better understand how systems work (universal systems process) and do not work (systems pathologies) at their most fundamental levels. This knowledge base would provide tested, evidence-based solutions to the challenges that all systems face—whatever their scale or particular function—whatever their domain, human or natural.

The paper presents two overarching strategies to accomplish systems mimicry and five case studies as possible examples of use of systems mimicry in systems design. Tools for using and action programs for establishing systems mimicry are also presented. The paper ends by suggesting a wider vision of the future of systems design and systems engineering than is currently held.


Dr. Len Troncale is a Professor Emeritus, past Chair of Biology, Director Emeritus of the Institute for Advanced Systems Studies, and Lecturer in graduate Systems Engineering at California State Polytechnic University. He has made many presentations at INCOSE events. He has served as President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS).

He has devoted his lifework to not only biology, but to integrating all of the sciences, giving him a unique view of the full spectrum of natural sciences. These studies led to authoring Systems Processes Theory (SPT), a candidate General Theory of Systems framework for unifying the fragmented systems domains, and a proposed knowledge base in systems science for systems engineering. His 107 publications, 130 invited computerized demonstrations in 23 countries and 52 grants and contracts for $5.3M from a variety of federal, state, and private organizations have given him additional experience in research and applications in natural systems.

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INCOSE Natural Systems Working Group (NSWG)

Chair:  Curt McNamara  —  Co-chair:  George Studor