[ skip to content ]


ODU: Navy engineers should see the big picture

In business, the adage says, the customer is always right.

That doesn't exactly fly at Old Dominion University, where engineering instructors are working with Navy civilian engineers on an approach that stresses how to define a problem before rushing to "solve" the wrong one.

"We kind of have a commandment," says Kevin MacG. Adams. "The customer never knows their problem."

Adams is a principal research scientist at the National Centers for System of Systems Engineering at ODU, and no, he doesn't think his customers are stupid.

In fact, he and other ODU officials say they have been impressed with Navy engineers and technicians who have been exposed to the philosophy.

But think of what happens when someone visits a doctor, he says. The patient may feel lousy and blame it on dinner, but it takes a doctor to step back, give it a longer look and say, no, you have diabetes.

That bigger-picture philosophy is at the heart of the "system of systems" approach.