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.
Difficulties have been encountered in communicating the meaning and value of complexity science principles to people in organizations. While one school of thought in the literature holds that it is not necessary to attempt to communicate the principles transparently, one set of researchers set out to develop a range of tools and a workshop session to do just this, and called it ‘The Complexity Starter Kit’. The Complexity Starter Kit features a six-day calendar and ‘water—cooler’ area posters, an exercise class and group sensemaking session, and an online knowledge development tool with group discussion boards. This paper describes the Complexity Starter Kit at high level, proposes its usefulness in the context of innovation, and provides an overview of educational strategies that facilitate learning about complexity science, a consideration of the ways in which these correlate with complexity science, and how this informed the development of the Complexity Starter Kit.