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Trojanmice Complexity Club. Newsletter 21


I think sanity is returning, my sanity that is. We have just finished moving both house and office and although I am used to dealing with complexity, things that are complicated are a different matter, especially installing wireless broadband!!

My new address is:

Holly House
33 North Street
North Lincs.
DN15 9QL

Tel: 01724 733303
E-mails and web site remain unchanged.

Quotes (again thanks mainly to Dave Gurteen)

Our life is what our thoughts make of it.

*** Mark Aurelius ***

What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.

*** Linda Ellinor, Glenna Gerard ***

So, how do we teach our kids? Do we cram their heads full of content and then test them on it? As individuals? Do we imply ambiguity is a failure? Do we insist on being right? Or do we say that knowledge is an unending conversation? Do we teach children to seek ambiguity and love difference?

***David Weinberger***

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.

*** Robert Frost ***

Knowledge is not very productive unless it moves in response to an issue, a problem or an opportunity. Then, it can create magic.

*** Bob Buckman President & Chairman, The Applied Knowledge Group ***

All invention and progress comes from finding a link between two ideas that have never met.

*** Theodore Zeldin (b. 1933) Historian & Author ***


‘ But I need it’

Father came down one morning to find his two children arguing over an orange. Failing to resolve the dispute, he took the orange away. More uproar ensured and the ultimate arbitrator was called. Mother decisively cut the orange in half and gave each child their share. Fair solution? yes, but see what happened next. The first child took her half, peeled it, threw away the skin and ate the half orange. Her brother took his half, peeled it, threw away the half orange and packed the peel to take to school for the cookery lesson.


Here is a book review from The Bumble Bee -

Organisations are complex living systems claims leading scientist

Fritjof Capra says organisations are not just like living systems - they are living systems! In his latest book, The Hidden Connections, Fritjof Capra, acclaimed physicist and author of the Web of Life and the Tao of Physics, challenges us to go beyond the metaphor and see to what extent human organisations can literally be understood as living systems. Capra describes the five main metaphors which people have used to understand organisations:

  1. Machines
  2. Organisms
  3. Brains
  4. Cultures
  5. Systems of government

He concludes that the fundamental debate is really whether we see our organisations as Machines (predictable) or Living System (unpredictable). In an inspirational chapter "Life and leadership in organisations" ( pp 85-112) Fritjof shows how a leader can address the key organisational and team challenges from a pure "living organisation" perspective including:

  • Change Management
  • Organisational Learning
  • Novelty and Innovation
  • Design and emergence
  • Leadership
  • Dignity

References: 1. Capra F., 2002. The Hidden Connections, Flamingo, pp. 85-112

To buy the book

The following is a review from the Plexus Institute:

Complexity as the Experience of Organizing: A New Book Series

A new book series from Routledge, edited by Ralph Stacey, Douglas Griffin and Patricia Shaw is now available. Each book (three of which have been recently published) will take the perspective of complex responsive processes and explore, through experiences of managers, leaders and consultants, major issues such as emergence, research, leadership, risk and spontaneity. The editors are all associated with the Complexity and Management Centre of the University of Hertfordshire and pioneers in developing a complexity perspective of organizations and management.

The three new works now available are:

  • Complexity and the Experience of Leading Organizations, edited by Douglas Griffin and Ralph Stacey
  • Experiencing Emergence in Organizations, edited by Ralph Stacey
  • A Complexity Perspective on Researching Organizations, edited by Ralph Stacey and Douglas Griffin

Available in October 2005:

  • Complexity and the Experience of Managing in Public Sector Organizations, edited by Ralph Stacey and Douglas Griffin

Available in December 2005:

  • Experiencing Risk, Spontaneity and Improvisation in Organizational Change, edited by Patricia Shaw and Ralph Stacey


This link takes you to a Transcript of Commencement Speech at Stanford given by Steve Jobs
It is a fascinating and inspirational read.


A cornerstone of bioteaming is that all team members should be treated like adults. This is the foundation of a self-managed team where its members operate responsibility but with autonomy. For example see Ken Thompson’s bioteam article on distributed team leadership.

Adults expect to be given information not orders. They expect to have to think some things through for themselves and to be trusted to act in the best interests of the team.
Ok so it can always be abused and people can make honest mistakes. But usually neither of these will be showstoppers and with the right transparency system will only happen only once or twice. Remember a key principle of governance is that the cost of the control should never exceed the cost of the losses without the control in place.
Bioteams constantly challenge their "permission structures" and where possible replace them with "forgiveness structures" based on transparent visibility of all team member actions.

To buy the article


New Project Seeks To Simplify Complexity:

A new EU-funded project MMCOMNET (Measuring and Modelling Complex Networks Across Domains) seeks to develop statistical techniques and software tools to analyse complex networks. Only relatively recently have scientists discovered that complex systems in all areas of life, from biology to public transport to supermarket supply chains, share certain features. Studying complexity can help shed light on the understanding of a surprisingly diverse array of systems in which agents interact, whether they be cells, people, buses or companies. The project will base its investigation of complex systems around three systems representing biological, socio-economic and innovation networks:


A thought from Paul Jacobson

Most of the people we meet have one of three worldviews: a logical view that everything is absolutely measurable; an interpretative view that will slip and slide with situations; and a political view that seeks to position everyone in a matrix of their power. Some people have the ability to combine these dominant views in hybrid ways. What then transpires are conversations where people (who do not disclose where they are coming from) baffle each other with their assertions.

A Point to Ponder from Ken Thompson

Fundamental Mindset Changes

Successful virtual team leadership also requires leaders who are prepared to challenge their long-held ‘golden rules’.

I define a golden rule as a strongly held belief which is no longer open to challenge.

Generally golden rules are expressed as:

  • This worked before THEREFORE it will work this time too
  • This did not work before THEREFORE it will not work this time either

And Finally

I am always interested in your ideas and feedback so please keep in touch with me.

Best wishes