We lost a special person over the holidays. William (“Bill”) Doll died December 27, 2017, one month short of his 87th birthday. Straddling the post-modern, Bill was a complex, complicated, caring man. With his penchant for alliteration, he gave us the four R’s (Richness, Recursion, Relationship & Rigor)1, the five C’s (Chaos, Complexity, Curriculum and […]
Exploring what the future of work will look like combines imagination with a healthy portion of pragmatism: where we have been, where we are today, as well as where we want to be in the future. But more than a wish list or a recipe, it requires an emergent perspective that can envision what will […]
‘The Soldier’ is a critical reflection on a decisive moment. It was initially submitted as an assignment to meet one of the requirements of an MBA course in managerial decision making. Previous research has discussed the design of this course, and has analysed more than 150 assignments for indicators that the course empowered students. In contrast, the current research provides an in-depth analysis of a single assignment. The nature of student learning is discussed at some length, along with the value obtained from critical reflection.
Managerial decision making is recognised as an important aspect of business school curricula, yet students often perceive a mismatch between pedagogy and preferred outcomes. If students view decision making as conflicted and confused, social and emotional, context-specific and time-urgent, how should the instructor respond? Can a business school decision course be designed so as to empower students? This report examines aspects of an innovative MBA managerial decision making course in which students critically reflect on a decisive moment that was important to their development. The research questions are: Did student feedback indicate that the course was successful? (RQ1) Did student’s critical reflections on decisive moments indicate that the course was empowering? (RQ2)
The Occupy Wall St. movement started off slowly in September of 2011. After a few short weeks, however, it appeared to be everywhere. This movement, which seemed to come out of nothing before spreading across the planet, has a great deal to offer the careful observer. By looking at the history of the Occupy Wall St. movement and its emergence out of a chaotic and complex environment, it will become apparent that there is much we can learn from complexity science that can be applied to this movement. Additionally, we will see that these lessons also have important implications in leadership.
When the world literally crumbles underfoot, and everything collapses into the dust, trapping and killing thousands, is your first instinct to say, “Thank goodness, that didn’t happen here!” Or let me travel halfway around the world to see how I might be able to help. When the email arrived that Lina was about to get […]
As critiques of and dislike for organizational teamwork increase, alternatives must be sought for both pedagogy and practice. Competitive sports metaphors are often used in management practice and teaching; unfortunately, these tend to reflect distinctly American values of zero-sum competition, cybernetic, error-correcting efficiency, individualistic success, therefore de-emphasizing what (American) organizational teamwork needs most: creativity, innovation, genuine autonomy and inventiveness. This is precisely what makes both the pedagogy and practice ineffective. This essay proposes the game of soccer as an alternative metaphor and heuristic device. I contend that both organizational teamwork and soccer are quantum phenomena. Specifically, I demonstrate how soccer teamwork is nonlinear, holonic, emergent and engaged, and articulate those concepts with extant, conventional understandings of teamwork in organizations. My hope for the essay is that the soccer metaphor will inspire a more complex understanding of organizational teamwork as a collaborative (rather than simply cooperative or coordinated) activity.
The concepts of emergence and collective intelligence are fascinating, and from their study might come good things. But neither is ‘good’ by definition and we ought to be careful not to let our enthusiasm and interest lead to us into speaking too casually about the benefits of ‘encouraging emergence’ or ‘developing collective intelligence’. We can find ourselves battling the emergent properties of a system, and working against its collective intelligence. This article explores an example to illustrate this from the field of social care. It also discusses some tentative ‘laws’ and some issues resulting from the positive nature of popular perspectives on emergence.
In this always informal, sometimes tongue-in-cheek paper, the author reports on his work bringing introductory complexity concepts to purveyors of social services. With an ethnographic tone he talks about some of the core problems practitioners try to contend with and how it is that complexity thinking allows them to see those problems in a different and potentially more useful way. The key to this commentary is the phrase “nonlinear dynamic systems,” the three concepts that are illustrated one at a time by examples from the author’s previous work. The serious subtext of the essay is this: The parallels between complexity and social service issues suggest a transformation blocked primarily by the thicket of regulations and hierarchical structures maintained by governments and funders. With political will for change at the top, a variety of new experiments in more effective and efficient social services could be tried.
This paper is the text of a presentation to the 1st International Workshop on Complexity and Policy Analysis delivered by Gerald Midgley and transcribed and edited by Kurt Richardson. It charts the development of systems thinking since the 1960s, identifying a number of different systems paradigms. These are then compared with paradigms in complexity research, and significant parallels are identified. It is argued that there are several interacting research communities (including those writing about complexity, systems thinking and cybernetics) that have the potential to learn from one another. A research program on systemic intervention is then presented, focusing on the need to think critically about boundaries and values as a means of dealing with the inevitable lack of comprehensiveness in systemic interventions. A rationale for methodological pluralism is also given. All through the paper, the theoretical and methodological ideas are illustrated with practical examples.
Complexity science literature abounds with anecdotes from the life sciences. Ants, termites, birds, and bees have been a popular choice of metaphor and provided inspiration in the development of simulations beneficial to learning and technological development. Recently, however, references like these seem to have dwindled. Perhaps through the overuse of anecdotes regarding such social insects, ants and termites have lost their impact and appeal, become clichéd, and, for some, even the subject of derision. But is their possible fall from grace fair? Recent research suggests not. This paper argues in favor of ants, termites, birds, and bees, presenting findings from a year-long study engaging 13 participants in interviews and the writing of qualitative diaries, showing that ants, among other species, do have a place. That place is wrapped up in the emotional and intellectual experience of individuals’ learning about and developing an interest in complexity science.
A common assumption in the ‘modern’ era is that ‘being connected’ can only be a good thing for individuals and for businesses, and even nation states and continents. This short article aims to explore this assumption with the use of Boolean networks. Although the research presented here is in its early stages, it already demonstrates that there is a balance to be met between connectivity and performance, and that being well-connected does not necessarily lead to desirable network performance attributes.
The last few decades have witnessed the development of a host of ideas aimed at understanding and predicting nature’s ever present complexity . It is shown that such a work provides, through its detailed study of order and disorder, a suitable framework for visualizing the dynamics and consequences of mankind’s ever present divisive traits. Specifically, this work explains how recent universal results pertaining to power-laws, self-organized criticality, and space-filling transformations provide additional and pertinent reminders that point us to unity as an essential element for us to achieve peace.
The last few decades have witnessed the development of a host of ideas aimed at understanding and predicting nature’s ever present complexity (see for instance, Mandlebrot, 1982; Bak, 1996; Wolfram, 2002). It is shown that such a work provides, through its detailed study of order and disorder, a suitable framework for visualizing the dynamics and consequences of mankind’s ever present divisive traits. Specifically, this work explains how recent universal results pertaining to the transition from order to chaos via a cascade of bifurcations point us to a serene state, symbolized by the convergence to the origin in the root of a Feigenbaum’s tree, in which we all may achieve peace.