Speaker Bios, Abstracts, Slides, and Videos

AdifonLeandre Adifon
Vice President, Enterprise Systems Engineering & Advanced Technology, ‎Ingersoll Rand
SDM Certificate Program Alumnus

Leandre Adifon is vice president for Enterprise Systems Engineering & Advanced Technology at Ingersoll Rand. He oversees programs and portfolio management, systems engineering, and advanced technology. Until recently, he led engineering and technology for the Industrial Technologies Sector, which includes compressed air technologies, power tools, fluids management, material handling, and Club Car (an Ingersoll Rand brand).

Previously, Adifon spent 20 years at United Technologies, where he was vice president of Otis Worldwide Engineering and a member of the Otis Executive Committee. He held various roles of increasing responsibility within United Technologies, including vice president of elevator systems engineering and development, director of engineering for North and South America, and senior manager for systems engineering worldwide, among others. Prior to joining United Technologies, Adifon served as a consultant in robotics, machine tools, and thermal engineering in Europe.

He holds advanced degrees in mechanical engineering from the Polytechnic of Milan in Italy and in management and finance technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). He also has an MBA from RPI and holds SDM’s Graduate Certificate in Systems and Product Development.

He is a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering, Global Architecture Forum, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He is also a board member of the American School for the Deaf and the African School of Economics.

Abstract — A Whole Systems Approach to Reinventing Innovation

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In this keynote presentation, Ingersoll Rand Vice President Leandre Adifon will discuss new and emerging systems thinking models that are driving innovation—both of deterministic systems such as products and services as well as non-deterministic systems such as organizations. Examples will be given from various industries and specifically from Ingersoll Rand. He will also offer guidance on how entire industries can rethink their business models to stay relevant and competitive amid the emergence of new socio-technological challenges and opportunities.

BruceCameronBruce G. Cameron, PhD
Core Faculty of System Design & Management and Lecturer, MIT

Dr. Bruce G. Cameron is a member of the core faculty of MIT System Design & Management, a lecturer at MIT, and a consultant on platform strategies. His research interests include technology strategy, system architecture, and the management of product platforms.

Previously, Dr. Cameron ran the MIT Commonality study, a 16-firm investigation of platforming returns, which concluded that firms face systemic downward pressure on commonality, partially resulting from the challenge of capturing the costs of variety. He has supervised more 20 graduate students and has directed research projects for BP, Sikorsky, Nokia, Caterpillar, NSTAR, AMGEN, Verizon, NASA, ESA, and Skoltech. Current research centers on:

  • platform management structures for supporting commonality retention;
  • accounting methods for recognizing the benefit of platforming across product lines;
  • strategic management of stakeholder needs in international partnerships; and
  • network analysis of customer requirements priorities.

As a consultant, Dr. Cameron works with companies to develop strategies for entering new markets, building flexible product lines, and achieving cost savings. His clients include Fortune 500 firms in high-tech, aerospace, transportation, and consumer goods.

Prior to coming to MIT, Dr. Cameron worked as an engagement manager at a management consultancy and as a system engineer at MDA Space Systems. He has built hardware that is currently in orbit. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto and has two master’s degrees and a PhD from MIT.

Abstract — Managing System Architecture: Surfacing the Right Decisions

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System architecture focuses on identifying high-leverage decisions early in the design process because those decisions will determine system performance. How have great system architects managed early design processes to make their decisions? We’ll look at how a couple of system architects saw their roles in the design process and consider how they thought about the management of that process. For example, the architecture of commercial aircraft has been under pressure to adapt to increasingly large aircraft engines, as seen recently in both the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A321neo. How would an architect approach this challenge? We’ll review a recent case study on the architectural decisions facing commercial aircraft to understand the role of the architect.


deWeckOlivier L. de Weck, PhD, dipl.-Ing
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems, MIT
Codirector, Center for Complex Engineering Systems, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and MIT

Olivier L. “Oli” de Weck is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT as well as the codirector of the Center for Complex Engineering Systems at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and MIT. He is also the lead instructor and coordinator for MIT’s System Design and Management core.

His research interests, teaching emphasis, and professional experience centers on “strategic engineering,” i.e. the design of complex systems for long life cycles (greater than 10 years) under both epistemic and aleatoric uncertainty. Before joining MIT, he was a liaison engineer and later engineering program manager on the Swiss F/A-18 fighter aircraft program at McDonnell Douglas.

He holds degrees in industrial engineering from ETH Zurich in Switzerland and in aerospace systems engineering from MIT. He is a fellow of the International Council on Systems Engineering and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In both 2007 and 2010, de Weck won Best Paper awards from the journal Systems Engineering, for which he serves as editor-in-chief.

He has authored or co-authored three books and more 300 research articles in the area of systems engineering. His research has been funded by GM, NASA, BP, JPL, Pratt & Whitney, ArvinMeritor, DARPA, AFRL and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among others.

Abstract — When Is Complex Too Complex? Graph Energy,
Proactive Complexity Management, and the First Law of Systems Engineering

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It is well known that the artificial systems that enable modern society to function—such as automobiles, aircraft, printing systems, the electrical grid, and medical devices, among others—are becoming more and more complex. This complexity often exceeds the cognitive abilities of a single human designer or even that of sophisticated product development organizations to comprehend. This talk will review typical measures of complexity for cyber-physical systems and focus in particular on graph energy as a key measure (independent of the degree of abstraction of the system) for quantifying structural complexity. Several invariants such as the P-point, where complexity exceeds a critical threshold, and the importance of the average nodal degree of <6> will be discussed as crucial foundations for a more proactive approach to complexity management in the development of cyber-physical systems and the emerging first law of systems engineering: conservation of complexity. The speaker will advocate the establishment of “complexity” budgets similar to mass and power budgets in science and engineering.

JohnHelferich_headshotJohn Helferich
Former Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Mars Inc.
PhD Candidate, MIT
Teaching Staff, System Design & Management, MIT
SDM Alumnus

John Helferich is a member of the MIT System Design & Management faculty and a PhD candidate at MIT. He graduated from MIT in 1979 with a degree in chemical engineering, then returned in 2011 as an SDM Fellow after a 28-year career in research and development with P&G, Ocean Spray Cranberries, and Mars Inc.

In 1995, Helferich was appointed vice president of research and development for the US division of Mars Inc. During his tenure, Mars made great strides in globalizing its technology development, improving its product development process, and protecting its intellectual property. These improvements resulted in improved product innovation and led Mars to industry-leading initiatives, including improving the sustainability of the global cocoa crop, demonstrating the health benefits of cocoa and chocolate, and launching the MyM&Ms personalized candy business.

Abstract — Nontraditional Applications of Systems Engineering

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Systems engineering was born in the aerospace industry, where its application led to many aviation and space successes. These successes dominate the view of which domains can benefit from systems engineering.

This session will move beyond airplanes and missiles to explore how the tools of systems engineering can be applied to domains such as food and healthcare. Specifically, we will explore the use of design structure matrices, system dynamics, the Systems-Theoretic Accident Model and Processes (STAMP), and the Object-Process Methodology in food safety, healthcare, and regulatory analysis.

The session will be interactive, with tools used on examples from session participants. Conference attendees should come away with a deepened appreciation of systems engineering methods and a sense of inspiration for their use beyond traditional domains.

Donna-LevinDonna Levin
Cofounder, Care.com
Entrepreneur in Residence, MIT

Donna Levin is one of the cofounders of Care.com, the world’s leading online site for helping families find and manage family care. During her tenure with the company, she has played key roles in building and leading numerous high-performing teams, including senior care planning and care concierge.

As vice president of operations, Levin built and launched all of the company’s operational systems, policies, and procedures, and she led the way on safety protocols, playing a fundamental role in scaling the Care.com platform. As vice president for public policy, corporate social responsibility, and global workplace solutions, she advocated for programs and changes—at both the enterprise and government levels—that will help families manage the costs and challenges of care.

Levin’s 15-year career as a social entrepreneur includes serving as vice president of operations at Upromise, an online service that helps families save for college. She has also held leadership positions across a broad range of technology and startup organizations, including Furniture.com, Turning Point Software (acquired by Metamore Worldwide), and Thomson Financial.

She serves on the board for the Center for Women and Enterprise, WBUR—Boston’s NPR news station, the Alliance for Business Leadership, and Zero to Three. She holds a BA from Emerson College and is pursuing her MBA at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Abstract — New Models for Families and Caregivers: A Study of Care.com


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Founded in the United States in 2007, Care.com is now the world’s largest online marketplace for finding and managing family care, with more than 19.5 million members in 16 countries.

In this presentation, Care.com co-founder and social entrepreneur Donna Levin will provide an overview of the systems-based approach to the company’s evolution. Levin, who served as the company’s vice president of operations, will share her experience in building and launching the company’s operational systems, policies, and procedures, including safety protocols, as well as scaling the Care.com platform to include electronic payment and tax preparation services. Levin will also discuss her work as vice president for public policy, corporate social responsibility, and global workplace solutions, as well as her successful advocacy for programs and change at both the enterprise and government levels.

Bernie MeyersonBernard S. Meyerson, PhD
IBM Fellow, Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, IBM

Dr. Bernard S. Meyerson, an IBM fellow, serves as IBM’s chief innovation officer. He also drives technical strategy and corporate initiatives within IBM’s Corporate Strategy Organization.

In 1980, Dr. Meyerson joined IBM Research, leading the development of high-performance silicon-germanium communications technology. He founded and led IBM’s highly successful Analog and Mixed Signal business until 2003, moving on to lead IBM’s global semiconductor development alliances. Broadening his scope, in 2006 he assumed leadership of strategic alliances for the Systems and Technology Group. In 2010, he assumed the role of chief innovation officer, focusing on the early identification of major technical and/or business discontinuities impacting business and society and on driving innovation across IBM to address the opportunities such discontinuities create. In 2013, his team was integrated into IBM’s Corporate Strategy function, which is responsible for the definition and execution of corporatewide technical and business initiatives.

Dr. Meyerson is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He is also a member of the US National Academy of Engineering. His numerous technical and business awards include: the Materials Research Society Medal, the Electrochemical Society Electronics Division Award, the IEEE Ernst Weber Award, the Electron Devices Society J.J. Ebers Award, and the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from SEMI. He was more recently honored with 2011 Pake Prize of the American Physical Society, recognizing his combined original scientific research and subsequent leadership in creating a major new semiconductor business for IBM. Most recently, Dr. Meyerson was honored by selection to present the 2014 Turing Lecture at the Royal Institute in London and at the Universities of Cardiff, Manchester, and Edinburgh. This honor is presented to one leader in information technology each year in memory of Alan Turing, the individual credited with creating modern computer science.

For his innovation efforts, Dr. Meyerson was named Inventor of the Year by the New York State Legislature in 1998, US Distinguished Inventor of the Year by the US IP Law Association and the Patent and Trademark Office in 1999, and again recognized in May of 2008 as Inventor of the Year by the New York State Intellectual Property Lawyers Association.

Abstract—Seeing the Forest and the Trees


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Global organizations face many complex challenges. Examples include maintaining effective integration across disparate physical geographies, dealing with myriad product offerings in “functional towers” that potentially conflict with one another, and bridging cultural chasms that can form when startups are acquired and must quickly integrate into new and by contrast absolutely overwhelmingly massive environments.

A common thread is that organizations tend to “stovepipe” as they mature, developing product, personnel, and management “towers” whose boundaries become impermeable over time. When this happens, those within these towers are able to see only their local “trees” and not the corporate forest of which their organization is a mere subset. Yet, if the forest fails to thrive, the individual trees will die with it.

This keynote presentation will focus on how to break down barriers through a systematic focus on creating a deep-rooted culture of corporate innovation, a “DNA” of innovation that does not respect boundaries that obstruct success. Dr. Meyerson will elaborate on several mechanisms that can be applied to creating and sustaining such DNA. He will also provide examples of outcomes achieved and lessons learned.

BryanMoser_headshotBryan R. Moser, PhD
Lecturer, System Design & Management, MIT
Project Associate Professor and Director of Global Teamwork Lab, University of Tokyo
President and Chief Executive Officer, Global Product Design

Dr. Bryan R. Moser is a lecturer at MIT System Design & Management and a project associate professor at the University of Tokyo focused on the nature of teamwork and performance though the study and design of socio-technical systems. His work integrates 25 years of fieldwork with new research, including observation of teamwork, interactive visualization, behavior-based simulation, and cross-functional workshops for complex, real-world missions. His industrial experience includes technology development, rollout, and sustainable operations in aerospace, automotive, heavy machinery, transportation, energy, telecom, and global services. Most of the programs he has worked on have been cross-cultural as well as technically complex.

Dr. Moser founded Global Project Design (GPD) in 1999 to deploy next-generation project practices and tools to match the complexity of modern work. With more than 14 years of ongoing research and global industrial deployments, GPD has crafted a transformative approach to complex project management powered by a method called Project Design and a software platform called TeamPort.

As a researcher from 1994–1999 at the University of Tokyo, Dr. Moser pushed forward methods and cases for developing high-performance global teams. For a decade with United Technologies, Dr. Moser led technology development partnerships and complex programs in Asia, creating strategic collaborations with industries, universities, and national programs. In the late 1980s, Dr. Moser was one of the first foreign engineers at Nissan Motor Co. in Japan.

Dr. Moser earned a doctorate from the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences at the University of Tokyo, where he splits his time with MIT, leading multidisciplinary research on complex socio-technical systems. He also holds degrees in computer science and in technology and policy, both from MIT, where he has received the Karl Taylor Compton Award, Hugh Hampton Young Fellowship, and Alumni Award for Excellence in Technology and Policy.

Abstract — Teamwork in Engineering as a Socio-technical System: Experiments and Analytics for Performance in Complex Projects

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This presentation will introduce recent research on the underlying mechanisms and dynamics of performance under conditions of complexity. Teams and their environments are instrumented to reveal phenomena in real time: demands, behaviors, activities, interactions, and outcomes across social and technical boundaries. Data-driven experiments are matched with modeling, simulation, systemic analytics, and interactive visualization. These methods are developed, tested, and deployed for practical use by joint industry-university teams.

Engineering projects are viewed as socio-technical systems if we include not only the delivered systems but also the developers as “humans in the loop.” People do work, make mistakes, process information, learn, and interact as part of organizations. They also allocate attention based on embedded behaviors within their individual capacities. Organizations with architecture and culture exhibit emergent behaviors (e.g. exception handling, quality, etc.).

Much team research exists at the micro scale—examining the interplay of individuals, their skills, personalities, and biases as part of small teams. Emerging research at the macro scale is using big data to draw conclusions at the population level. This presentation details work focused on the meso scale—the team of teams working on systems of systems. This layer of focus corresponds to the most common scale and scope of influence encountered by teams working on complex engineering projects.

nairRajesh Nair
Founder and Chairman, Degree Controls Inc.
Visiting Scholar, MIT
Senior Lecturer and Director, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, Asia School of Business
SDM Alumnus

A graduate of MIT System Design & Management, Rajesh Nair is a visiting scholar at the Institute. He is also senior lecturer and director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at the Asia School of Business, which was cofounded by the MIT Sloan School of Management and Bank Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Nair is a product designer and a serial entrepreneur. He founded and serves as chairman of Degree Controls Inc., which develops solutions for the thermal design of high-reliability electronic products in medical, information technology, military, and consumer markets. He has developed several industry-standard products and holds 13 US patents. He received the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the New Hampshire High Tech Council and was a finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year–New England.

He two holds bachelor’s degrees: one in physics from the University of Kerala and one in electronics and communications engineering from the Indian Institute of Science. As a graduate of MIT System Design & Management, he also holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT.

Nair’s personal mission is to create 1,000 entrepreneurs in the next three years through the method he developed at MIT. He founded EnCube Labs (www.EnCubeLabs.com) to address this mission through teaching curriculum that changes attitudes about entrepreneurship for students in schools and universities as well as in the communities in which they live.

Abstract — A Systems-Based Approach to Creating Entrepreneurs and the Ecosystems that Sustain Them


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Are entrepreneurs born or made? To foster entrepreneurship, mental models of who aspiring engineers can be and how they should be educated need to be changed from the inside out and the outside in—especially in the tradition-bound Far East. In this presentation, Rajesh Nair, senior lecturer and director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at the Asia School of Business, will discuss his current work as an educator, an entrepreneur, and a change agent. He will provide an overview of his systems-based approach to helping engineering students, their parents, and the business community create new paradigms and possibilities for who engineers can be and how they can change the world through entrepreneurship. In addition, he will offer insights into how this methodology can be applied in other areas.

Joan Rubin, MIT SDM staffJoan S. Rubin
Executive Director (Interim) and Industry Codirector, System Design & Management, MIT

Joan S. Rubin joined MIT in 2011 to lead industry relations efforts for the System Design & Management (SDM) program at MIT. She is currently SDM’s interim executive director and industry codirector and is focused on integrating real-world challenges into the SDM curriculum through projects, thesis work, student internships, and recruiting. Rubin’s professional interests include increasing the application of systems engineering to nontraditional industries.

Rubin brought to SDM 17 years of business development, marketing, market development, and strategic planning experience in the field of medical devices. She came to MIT from Covidien, a leading manufacturer of medical devices and supplies, where she served as vice president of business development.

Previously, Rubin was with Aspect Medical Systems, having joined the company in its startup phase several years before its November 2009 acquisition by Covidien. At Aspect, she held leadership roles in business development, global partnerships, marketing, and market development.

As a graduate of MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations, Rubin earned an SM in management and an SM in mechanical engineering from MIT. She holds an ScB in mechanical engineering from Brown University.