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The Naskapi Indians used to determine where to hunt game by placing the shoulder bone of a caribou over a fire until it cracks - then read the cracks as a map. This strategy works because it ensures that the plans for future hunts are not shaped by the results of past hunts. It kept the Naskapis from mindlessly returning to - and depleting - territory they had covered before.

Courtesy of Karl Weick

Story Telling

Here is another story which I came across in the wake of the terrible events of Sept 11th

A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how
he felt about a tragedy.
He said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart.
One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one.
The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one."
The grandson asked him, "Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?"
The grandfather answered, "The one I feed."

Also I came across this website via Dave Gurteen's newsletter,
which explores how to write stories.

New Article

I have just finished a new article for the Lloyds TSB newsletter for small businesses. The article attempts to explain the benefits of complexity theory to businesses without mentioning complexity or theory. I will be posting it on my web site shortly so why not have a look and let me know what you think.

Future Plans

I am developing with Amanda Dale - - a programme based on complexity aimed at medium to large organisations called the Thriving Organisation. This presents the concept in a way that hopefully will not frighten off those who are new to the subject. I will include you on our mailing list when we are ready to launch it early next year.

The content of the second slide I acquired from David Kernick - . David is a doctor in Exeter and he has been asked to contribute a chapter to a book about complexity in the Health Service. My specialisms are business and education so it was a fascinating experience reading about complexity in the health sector and I picked up a number of new perspectives. How about this for a set of simple rules for the health service

o Accept that death, sickness and pain are part of life
o Medicine has limited powers particularly to solve social problems and is risky
o Doctors don't know everything - they need decision making and psychological support
o We are all in this together
o Patients can't leave problems to doctors
o Doctors should be open about their limitations

Communities of Practice

At a recent event I was facilitating I was asked to find some resources on Communities of Practice. These are where people with the same role or function in an organisation, industry or sector come together to share.
" The main proponents of this activity are Etienne Wenger , and George Por.
" This link is to the page listing articles about the subject. Click Here
" And this page in particular is worth a read.

" This site is selling a system for handling Communities of Practice


Inter~logics have announced details of next years conference "It's a Relational World" for 13th - 15th March 2002 at Ardencote Manor, Warwickshire. Further details at

Also the Manufacturing Complexity Network are having a conference in April 2002 at Downing College, Cambridge, UK. And are seeking papers.
For details about the conference and how to submit an abstract please
visit the conference web site at or the
network web site at


I met up last month with Marilyn and Henry Herasymowych from the MHA Institute who were over from Canada. We had a most stimulating conversation that included the thought "why do we educate young people in the known and not teach them to explore the unknown". They introduced me to their name signing exercise which is on their website so why not give it a go

I went to the exhibition at the CIPD Conference in Harrogate and spent some time at a stand organised by four small consultancies operating with complexity who call themselves Coevolve.


The Royal Society of Arts have scheduled a lecture to be given by Prof. Ralph
Stacey from Hertfordshire University Business School on 27 February 2002 at 6pm and Charles Handy will take the Chair. Here is the synopsis of his lecture.

Over the past decade, practicing managers and organisational theorists have
been drawing attention to the centrality of information and knowledge in
economic and social processes, the so-called 'knowledge economy'. This is
reflected in the popularity in management today of notions of learning,
sense-making, knowledge creation, knowledge management and intellectual
capital in organizations. More recently, attention has been drawn to
emotional intelligence as an important management skill in these processes
of learning and knowledge creation. Ralph Stacey will suggest that most of
the discussion on these matters reflects systems thinking and that its
information processing view of knowledge creation is no longer tenable. He
will suggest a different perspective, that of Complex Responsive Processes
of relating, which draws on the complexity sciences as a source domain for
analogies with human action. This alternative perspective places
self-organizing interaction, with its intrinsic capacity to produce emergent
coherence, at the centre of the knowledge creating process in organisations.
Learning and knowledge creation are seen as qualitative processes of power
relating that are emotional as well as intellectual, creative as well as
destructive, enabling as well as constraining. The result is a radical
questioning of the belief that organisational knowledge is essentially
codified and centralized. Instead, organisational knowledge is understood to
be in the relationships between people in an organisation and has to do with
the qualities of those relationships and as such it cannot be "managed".

Getting the Message Across

I was chatting to David Norman about the difficulties of introducing the concepts of complexity to businesses and he sent me this contribution.

Challenging Orthodoxy . . . the emerging paradigm paradox:
" . . . Success generated real academic hostility. Accepted theories and established reputations had to be defended . . .".

I am mindful that the approaches of accelerated human change technologies, and other closely associated methods, for a wide variety of reasons, may be unwelcome, even threatening, to many mainstream researchers and practitioners. There are a number of contemporary commentaries on these behaviour patterns, and importantly guidelines, models and suggestions of what to do about it to accelerate acceptance. I am reminded in this context of the following authors:

The Kon Tiki paradox - Consider the achievements of Thor Heyerdahl of Kon Tiki expedition fame. Who crossed the Pacific Ocean in a papyrus raft he built, to prove that migration was possible in ancient times. When interviewed recently in the Weekend FT (30/1 Dec 2000) and describing his experiences, said, " . . . the expeditions success generated real academic hostility. Accepted theories and established reputations had to be defended".

The diffusion paradigm - As the highly acclaimed sociologist and Stanford Professor, Everett Rogers (The diffusion of innovations. Free Press. 1983, and later) points out; "Most innovations, in fact, diffuse at a surprisingly slow rate". As he said on " . . . the widespread adoption of educational ideas: "the average American school lags 25 years behind best practice. Examples of this pattern (adopter-diffusion) are well documented and researched (1000 + cases). The studies address the characteristics, communication patterns and social systems involved. Ranging from the more than 250!!! years (1601 to 1865) that it took the Royal Navy to adopt (from 'proof' to 'policy') vitamin C, to eradicate scurvy (by far the biggest killer at sea), to studies of the failure of the vastly superior Dvorak keyboard, clean Peruvian drinking water, snowmobiles in Lapland, solar heating in California, Java software, and many more.

Other relevant contributions can be found in:
The structure of scientific revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. Chicago. 1996.
Breakthroughs: how leadership and drive created commercial innovations that swept the world (A.D. Little) by Nayak and Ketteringham. Mercury. 1986.
Innovation: the attackers advantage (McKinsey) by Foster. MacMillan. 1986.

Web Sites

In the earlier note on storytelling I referred to Stephanie Burns. She has a range of articles and other resources on learning to learn and goal setting.

In previous newsletters I have referred to the Hubble site and a fractal web site . On returning to the Hubble site I realised just how fractal in nature the Universe is. This is illustrated really well with the pictures of the star nurseries.

Well that's about it 'till the next time and don't forget any contributions are most welcome.