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

Introduction

I have been very busy recently (what a nice feeling) and therefore this newsletter is a bit later than I would have wished.

Much of what I have been doing relates to connections and the more I do the more I realise that connections are the most important aspect of organisational life, in fact without them there is no organisational life. Most of the business tools we use such as job descriptions, hierarchy charts, appraisals, rules, and budgets etc. tend to concentrate on the "bits", but it is the relationships and connections that make the difference. In fact an organisation is its connections.

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Examples

I am often asked if I know of any practical examples of organisations using complexity and I came across this one the other day courtesy of Sarah Lewis at Jemstone Consultancy www.jemstoneconsultancy.co.uk

Complex Adaptive System in action: the Case of Cemex

Challenged with how to get cement to where it was needed when it was needed, given the ever changing schedules of building sites, the difficulty of keeping cement useable and the preparation time of fresh cement, Cemex adopted a radical solution. Instead of a complicated production planning schedule, Cemex loads its fleets of cement trucks every morning and dispatches them with no predetermined destination.

They follow algorithmic rules: deliver as much cement to as many customers as rapidly as possible, stay as far away from other cement trucks as possible, customers are guaranteed cement within two hours of notice.

How does this work? Cemex has taken a brave decision to work with a self organising distributed intelligence model rather than the classic centralised organisation, which stipulates specific delivery schedules.

From Pascale et al (2000) Surfing the edge of chaos 2. Three Rivers Press.

Spiral Dynamics

For those who are interested in this concept http://www.wie.org/_flash/sd.asp?hp=1 is an interesting site which explains some of the concepts. One of the items relates to memes, which are things like ideas, songs, jokes, stories etc. Memes evolve and replicate like genes. A good meme is passed on with changes and a poor meme fizzles out. I believe that complexity is a meme that will eventually spread to all organisations.

Quotes

Once again mainly courtesy of Dave Gurteen:

http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/

"We must become the change we want to see in the world."

*** Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) Hindi Nationalist Leader ***

"Look sharply after your thoughts, they come unlooked for, like a new bird seen in your trees, and, if you turn to your usual task, disappear."

*** Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American Essayist & Poet ***

"Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhabited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence."

*** Norman Podhoretz ***

"We learn simply by the exposure of living. Much that passes for education is not education at all but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when we know it least. "

*** David P. Gardner ***

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change"

*** Charles Darwin ***

Articles

Four interesting articles can be found on the Worldwide Democracy Network (WDN) web site at: http://www.wwdemocracy.nildram.co.uk/all_change.htm

Liberating Leaders (part one) - Roy Madron
Roy Madron compares 'Liberating Leadership' with the more traditional and widespread 'command-and-control' method.

Liberating Leaders (part two) - Roy Madron
In the second and final part of his look at leadership, Roy Madron considers two approaches to dealing with complex organisations: traditional command-and-control; and liberating leadership.

Complex Adaptive Systems - Dr. Samir Rihani
An introduction to complex systems and the paradigm shift from linear- to non-linear thinking. To be followed in the next issue by 'Insights Revealed by Complexity'

On target to achieve nothing (or: it's time ministers got out of management) - John Seddon
John Seddon considers the impact of targets in the public sector.

An article by Simon Caulkin "Thinking Outside of the Box" can be found at: http://www.wwdemocracy.nildram.co.uk/newvisions/systemsthinking/thinkingoutsidethe_box.htm

Books

First a review of "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell, (courtesy of Land & Liberty magazine) can be found at:

http://www.wwdemocracy.nildram.co.uk/reading/tippingpoint.htm

In some ways the tipping point has similarities with the concept of trojanmice.

And second a review from the Plexus Institute of Diane Ackerman, Deep Play

Ackerman begins her book with a quote from Plato. In a more abbreviated form, it is a question, and Plato's own answer to his question. He asks, "What, then, is the right way of living?" To which, he responds, "Life must be lived as play." Indeed, Ackerman writes, all of life is play, and not just the elements of human experience. But is it? Is all of life play?

Human beings engage in playful rituals and give shape to cultural happenings through play. We "play" with ideas here: "language is a playing with words until they can impersonate physical objects and abstract ideas". Even animals play - and for different reasons and purposes. Mating rituals. Fighting and war games. Motor skill development. And, so on. But why, in general, do we play?

In general, it can be said that the more that an animal needs to learn (to survive), the more that it needs to play. "Playing around" allows us (as well as other animals) to come into contact with the limits of what might be possible and to develop strategies to explore those limits. Play, however, is not some optional, casual activity - not even for children.

"Play," Ackerman writes, "probably helps to keep an animal's senses well informed and alert." She continues:

"The central nervous system needs a certain amount of stimulation. To a dynamic organism, monotony is unbearable. Young animals don't know what is important, what can safely be ignored; they have had fewer novel experiences, and their senses are fresh and highly sensitive. Everything matters."

Interview with Roger Lewin on Complexity

This link http://www.cio.com/archive/enterprise/041598_qanda.html?printversion=yes takes you to an interview with Roger Lewin who gives an excellent illustration of how complexity affects organisational life.

Web Sites

Future Focus specialises in helping organisations come to terms with complexity.

http://www.futurefocusnet.com/indexflash.html

Business Futures specialises in helping organisations test out alternative scenarios for the future:

http://www.businessfutures.com/home.htm

A virtual exhibition by Julian Burton at the London School of Economics, illustrating the concepts of complexity in pictures:

http://www.delta7.com/exhibition/

Resources

Dave Gurteen's website: http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/ found a collection of "Lesson Cards". These are a collection of 40 practical lessons that individuals can adopt for themselves. Each of these 'lessons' consists of a short story, often with a link to a fuller case study and summarised with a few one-line lessons.

They are all in the context of health care but each story but the lessons can be adapted and applied to most businesses.

http://www.cgsupport.org/Resources/Lesson_Cards

Finally

Halloween and the sense of magic are in the air: The more we are prepared to believe in magic the less likely we are to reject the improbable truths that are out there.