This paper explores the question of whether people involved with a successful watershed policy initiative embraced and/or negated the complexity with which they worked. The setting was Lake Simcoe, in central Canada: an area important for fisheries, agriculture, tourism, recreation and citizens’ identities. Human activities had impacted water quality, and planned development posed further threats. Although government had supported considerable scientific data collection, citizens became frustrated by what they saw as a lack of regulatory and enforcement work. Citizens embarked on a range of creative pressure tactics for change. In early stages, citizens felt marginalized, but over time they were included in increasingly meaningful ways. This paper explores several complex system themes in interview transcripts, including initial starting conditions, attractors, and boundaries. A key finding is that citizens used scientific data as an attractor to enable their inclusion for a more complex range of agendas and benefits.
This is the second segment of a two-part paper, which attempts to strengthen a bridge between theoretical and practical worlds by bringing information from organizations to complexity theorists. It is written as a boundary object to encourage further research, dialogue and conclusions. This paper focuses on one theme from complexity and new science literature: the theme of boundaries. A relatively new methodology, phenomenography, is used as an inductive method of inquiry to explore qualitatively different ways in which published authors and graduate students understand the related concepts of boundary, edge and periphery. These authors’ unsolicited views of the boundary concept ranged from micro to macro in scale, and from detached observation to personal activism in nature. This study suggests that boundaries are important areas for learning, growth, risk, and observation and repair of systemic challenges, and that they deserve further iterative or collaborative research in relation to complexity thinking.
This paper focuses on one theme from complexity and new science literature: the theme of boundaries. It responds to requests from complexity theorists to bring organizational perspectives into dialogues about the use of complexity thinking by managers and leaders. The researcher has used phenomenographic analysis to explore published authors’ qualitatively different ways of understanding boundaries. These have been grouped into two major categories, and several subcategories. These authors believed that boundaries deserve attention, and that they can be actively managed for a range of benefits. These ways of understanding are interpreted through a model based on theoretical work by Etienne Wenger. This is the first part of a two-part paper that attempts to strengthen a bridge between theoretical and practical worlds, and to create a space for further research and dialogue.
Introduction Complexity and the Experience of Leading Organizations is the latest in a five book series on “Complexity as the Experience of Organizing” (emphasis added). The book reminds me of an engaging collection of Harvard Business School instructor perspectives, written during their transition from lecturing to discussion leadership, and collected in a 1991 volume entitled […]