We’ve all heard the expression that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” but what exactly does that mean, and why are complex systems crucial to understand for successful product development?

A “whole” is different from a “totality.” A totality is a collection of parts (a “heap”), whereas a “whole” refers to the relationships and synergy between them. A heap is a box of puzzle pieces; a whole is what happens when you put them together. We all intuitively understand this, but in practice, putting the puzzle pieces together to create the bigger picture can be challenging for even the smartest of people.

Puzzle Pieces

Understanding Complex Systems and Their Relationship to Product Development

The term “complex systems,” as the name suggests, refers to wholes (systems) characterized by high degrees of complexity. This complexity derives from the fact that complex systems are composed of multiple subsystems. When processes are going well, these subsystems work together in a more or less unified way, generating results that could never be created by each subsystem on its own.

While this may sound abstract, it’s a concrete principle that characterizes many of the things we’re most familiar with. For example, our body is a complex system composed of the central nervous system, the endocrine system, the circulatory system, the skeletal system, the muscular system, and so forth. The cars we drive are complex systems composed of internal combustion systems, steering systems, braking systems, temperature control systems, shock systems, and so forth. If you were to disassemble your vehicle, you’d have a “heap” (a collection of parts), not a whole (a functional unity).

Product Development is a Complex System that Requires Integrative Operations

At Pivot International, a complex systems perspective drives everything we do. By definition, product development is a complex system composed of multiple subsystems that include supply chain, compliance, project and product management, prototyping, design and engineering, manufacturing, and more. (At Pivot, we integrate each of these subsystems under one umbrella.)

Not only must these subsystems be managed, but the relationships between each of them must be integrated. This is true across business divisions or departments (the macro order) and across the various phases of product development (the micro order) for which each is responsible.

If everything and everyone isn’t on the same page, so to speak, disruptions or breakdowns in the product development process are inevitable. As the saying goes, a system is only as strong as its weakest link: break any link, and you risk losing the entire chain. This is why a partner with integrative operations is perhaps the key meta-strategy of successful product development.

How a Partner With Integrative Operations Benefits Your Business

Here are some examples of how a partnership with integrative operations can fuel your product’s success:

Increased time-savings and cost-savings: Time is money, and a one-source partner spares you the time-consuming (and costly) task of vetting multiple suppliers. And because integrative operations work to streamline all aspects of product development, this expedites the more extensive process. This translates to cost savings and faster time to market.

Greater transparency, coordination, and synergy: When every aspect of product development occurs within the same company, greater transparency, coordination, and oversight are possible. Cross-team visibility eliminates silos and illuminates blind spots. In turn, coordination and synergy increase to bring the bigger product picture into view.

High degrees of oversight: “Oversight” is just that — the ability to oversee all the various subsystems of a complex system. One-source integrative operations mean that there is no area of the business or product development process that can’t be seen, monitored, measured, and managed. This results in better quality control and means the client is never in the dark about where their product stands.

Enhanced product protection and data security: Integrative operations depend on an integrative technology stack. Variance in IT infrastructure and technology systems between different parts of the business represents a weak link that can easily break and stall product development. (And it can also make your product or company data vulnerable to a cyber attack.) A one-source product development partner offers maximum protection from these dangers.

The complex system of product development requires integrative operations to manage and profitably monetize successfully. With nearly fifty years of experience across fourteen industries and 320,000 square feet of manufacturing capability across three continents, Pivot is a proven partner behind multiple award-winning products. If you’d like to learn more about how Pivot’s one-source model can help your company achieve its growth goals, contact us today.