Complex Systems, Complexity, Chaos Theory,Complex Adaptive Systems,Complexity and Strategy,Organisational Change,Self Organisation,Complex Systems and Knowledge Creation,Brain,Mind,Complex Systems Resources,Complexity and Chaos Resources,Organisational Form, Complexity Theory,Consultancy


I came across a fascinating example of self organizing in the Plexus Newsletter – it’s called “slugging”.

“It is a form of commuting — solo drivers picking up strangers so they can all cruise to work legally in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes — is called "slugging." Passengers are "slugs," a label alluding not to their energy or wit but to counterfeit tokens and coins. A ride, too, is a slug. Drivers are drivers, or less commonly, "body snatchers," "scrapers" and "land sharks." With little notice outside Washington, these Northern Virginia commuters to the nation's capital and big office sites of nearby Arlington, Rosslyn and Crystal City have blended hitchhiking and carpooling into a quick, efficient way to outmanoeuvre a traffic-choked freeway.
Slugging started by spontaneous eruption and runs by perpetual motion. When the area's three-person, high-occupancy vehicle lanes opened 30 years ago, some guy and then another and another picked up commuters at bus stops to get the passengers needed to use the lanes. No government agency sanctions slugging, runs it, regulates it, promotes it or thought it up. The Census Bureau, which tracks most forms of commuting, knows nothing about slugging.
In slugging, there is no supervisor, dispatcher or schedule, no ticket or fare.”


Talking of newsletters, I am on the mailing list of several and I find them a constant source of information, inspiration and challenge to how I see the world. So I thought I would list them all so that you could also have the chance to subscribe to them:-

Plexus Complexity Post

This is a weekly post from the Plexus Institute which explores the phenomena of complexity in our everyday world. Each week they give an example like the one in the introduction above. Contact them at

Change Management Newsletter

This is the newsletter of Holger Nauheimer in Germany. Each edition describes a different change management tool as well as other items about change. To subscribe

Complexity Digest

Complexity Digest is an independent publication that gives extracts and links to new items relating to complexity. ComDig is published by Dean LeBaron and edited by Gottfried J. Mayer. For individual free e-mail subscriptions send requests to:

Jemstone Tidbits

This is the newsletter of Sarah Lewis’s Jemstone Consultancy. Below is an extract from one of her newsletters.

When does an organisational network not work?

Usually we think of organisations as networks of people, what happens if instead we think of them of networks of actions? Pentland explores this idea and suggests the following understanding emerges

To see networks of actions we need to identify patterns of action

T hese can be hard to spot as they are distributed in time and space

If they cross organisational subunits, people can find them hard to explain

Established routines become of interest, they can be seen as the basic ‘genetic material’ of the organisation, The more routines the harder for the organisation to change. It is ‘pinned down’ in more places

The better the links between routines, the more likely the organisation is to demonstrate ‘heedfulness’ behaviour i.e. acting in a way that takes account of the action of others

So, implications for managers

Excessive routine is the enemy of organisational intelligence and flexibility

Networks of people need supporting networks of action to be effective.

B. Pentland (1999 ) Organisations as networks of action in Baum and McKelvey (eds) Variations in organisational science. Sage

You can subscribe via her web site

Gurteen newsletter

This is Dave Gurteens newsletter which majors on Knowledge management . but which also has many other interesting items. Dave’s site is a great source of quotes as well as much more.

Oryon news

A monthly newsletters with a series of articles about new ways of looking at the world. Subscribe via


Here is a set of inyeresting articles which I have come across recently.

Life Support Systems
By Michael Jacobs and Aidan Ward

This is a new article on my site which examines how we should approach organisational issues when we understand an organisation as a living organism.

Wicked Problems: Naming the Pain in Organizations
by E. Jeffrey Conklin & William Weil

”Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them”. -Laurence J. Peter

”There is a subtle but pervasive pain in organizations. You can recognize it in such complaints as "How am I supposed to get my work done with all these meetings?" and "We always have time to do things over again, but never time to do them right." It is the pain of expecting things to be one way and repeatedly banging into a different reality. It is the pain of trying to do good work in an environment full of motion and effort but few results.”

Smarter, Simpler, Social: an introduction to online social software methodology
by Livio Hughes

This paper is based on the author’s experience of trying to develop meaningful online applications that have a real world purpose or that support existing communities of people over the past 7 years, and is partly also a response to recent debate around the idea and practice of social software.

Smart Heuristics
by: Gerd Gigerenzer

“What interests me is the question of how humans learn to live with uncertainty. Before the scientific revolution determinism was a strong ideal. Religion brought about a denial of uncertainty, and many people knew that their kin or their race was exactly the one that God had favored. They also thought they were entitled to get rid of competing ideas and the people that propagated them. How does a society change from this condition into one in which we understand that there is this fundamental uncertainty? How do we avoid the illusion of certainty to produce the understanding that everything, whether it be a medical test or deciding on the best cure for a particular kind of cancer, has a fundamental element of uncertainty?”

Bringing Life to Organizational Change
by Margaret J. Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers

“After so many years of defending ourselves against life and searching for better controls, we sit exhausted in the unyielding structures of organization we've created, wondering what happened. What happened to effectiveness, to creativity, to meaning? What happened to us? Trying to get these structures to change becomes the challenge of our lives. We draw their futures and design them into clearly better forms. We push them, we prod them. We try fear, we try enticement,. We collect tools, we study techniques. We use everything we know and end up nowhere. What happened?”


Thanks to Dave Gurteen for these quotes:-

"The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important - and then get out of their way while they do it."

*** Jack Welch (b. 1935) Retired CEO of GE ***

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is."

*** Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut ***

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

*** Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate ***

"I am not my memories. I am my dreams."

*** Terry Hostetler American Entrepreneur ***

"The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would
like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do."

*** Robert M. Pirsig (b. 1928) Author ***


For those of you who like optical illusions which demonstrate how the brain works:-


Conference on Complexity & Creativity (CCC)
18 September 2003
Organised jointly by the Complexity Group at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Complexity Society to be held at the London School of Economics, UK. This is the second half of a dual conference. The first half on 16 & 17 September 2003 will focus on Ethics, Complexity and Organisations.

Conference booking details on

8th Annual Learning Styles Conference
‘Bridging Theory & Practice’

“A conference relevant to everyone interested in learning, teaching,
assessment, training, development, performance, management,
individual behaviour”


Monday 30th June, Tuesday 1st July, Wednesday 2nd July 2003
At Hull University
To register electronically and find further information go to conference web page:

European Learning Styles Information Network


I have two stories for this edition both courtesy of Sarah Lewis at Jemstone. The first is about the perceptiveness of Lego:-

“In 1998 Lego began selling a £170 build your own robot with a proprietary microprocessor, operating system and so on; presumably anticipating many months of exclusive supply and development.

In no time at all it had been reversed engineered and the software posted on the web. People got interested and started developing programmes to make it do little tricks.

Lego could have got litigious, instead it embraced the unexpected development and now provides web and software support to the community. It seems everyone is happy with the outcome; a better product.

Do the unexpected and let your customers add value.”

And the second story is a cautionary tale

“A man was told that somewhere on that beach there was a pebble of pure gold. He dedicated himself to finding it. Everyday, from 9-5 he walked the beach, along the sea’s edge, picking up pebbles, quickly examining them, and discarding them into the sea. Pick up, examine, discard, pick up, examine, discard, pick up, examine, discard: all day working to a rhythm. He dedicated his life to finding the precious stone, ‘when I find it all my problems will be solved, my life will be heavenly’ He ignored all entreaties and offers of other ways to solve his problems. All day, every day, year after year, it became a way of life.

And so, in his 56th year he picked up a stone that was different from the rest. Even as he noted that it was different, his body, moved ahead in rhythm and discarded the stone to the sea.

Was he a lucky or an unlucky man?”

And Finally

Thanks again to Dave Gurteen for this quote which sums up perfectly the concept behind trojanmice.

"The only way to change is by changing your understanding."

*** Anthony de Mello (1931-1987) Jesuit Priest ***

And finally finally a possible date for your diaries. I have been asked by LSE Complexity Group to attend as speaker at a Complexity Business Seminar supported by the Exystence NoE ( The Seminar will take place in Spain-MCC ( in the Basque Country

This Seminar will try to cover the recent interest that complexity science is showing in network structures and network dynamics.

The seminar will consist in three presentations that can cover these important issues from two main dimension; the first one is the academic-practical spectrum, and the second one is the intra-inter organizational spectrum.

I will be speaking about "Humberside TEC Experience: Intra-Organizational Network Development in Practice"

I am really looking forward to it as you can imagine.

Be alive