Organizational Complexity


Complexity science is slowly shaping the way we think today and is expected to further change the way we approach organizations and their collective actions.  In particular, much of the past command and control approach to business is evolving to one of influence and adaptive learning.  This is a true paradigm shift that can only be fully understood once the shift has been personally experienced.  Until then, parts will be discounted as not being applicable or just blue-sky ideas.   The attempt here is to help organize this rapidly evolving field of study so that practitioners can understand the emerging theory and move it closer to practice. 

General Principles of Complexity - not limited to social sciences

Sensitivity to initial conditions

The result is dependent on the initial conditions and small changes may produce a significant change in the final result and vice versa.  Large changes in initial conditions may produce little change in the final result.  This can be observed in how a nonlinear equation changes with different starting values.  Download this Excel spreadsheet and observe how the plotted values change as the starting value changes.  To see this easier, a macro was established to increment the starting value each time the button is pushed.  For example, observe the changes when incrementing from 2 to 4 by .05.  What is interesting is how the patterns morph into different patterns.  Every once in awhile there is a discontinuous jump in patterns with some becoming chaotic, but with a pattern again emerging abruptly.  Reduce the incremental value to observe these critical points in more detail.  To get a closer look at one interesting zone, start at 3.73 and increment by .001. 


Random thoughts that have not been consolidated into a unified flow that is well thought out

Resources on Organizational Complexity

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Transformative Networking connecting change leaders to enable self-organized grassroots change.

Next Steps While still conceptual, transformative networking offers the possibility of leading change through the networking of those already interested or involved in similar initiatives, effectively tearing down existing silos of practice that exist across disciplines and fields of work.  The next step is to develop a proof of concept built on the theoretical underpinnings above, possibly using Google Wave as the collaboration platform.  Included will be identifying the minimal structure and governance required to enable self-organization within the network while not constraining what might emerge.  Join this initiative and help create the future of organizing - networking communities of interest.    

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Last modified: July 19, 2009