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


As usual lots of things seem to be happening to me and I do mean it that way round. No matter how much I try and shape my future the things I actually get involved with are largely unpredictable. Complexity in action I suppose and I like it that way.
In traditional organisations we would be about to implement our plans for the new financial year and that reminds me of the following true scenario, which is an extract from an article what I wrote (apologies to Ernie Wise) just over two years ago.

To Plan or not to Plan?

A few years ago I attended a Strategic Planning course run mainly for the oil industry and one incident sticks out very firmly in my mind. All those on the course who worked in the oil industry (which for some reason was most of them) were asked to write down on a card what they thought the price of oil would be in five years time. They all revealed their cards at the same time and they all had near enough the same price. They were then asked to put in a pile in front of them their wallets, cash, jewellery and any other valuables. The tutor asked: "how many of you are prepared to bet that pile of precious possessions in front of you on the price you wrote on the card actually coming true?" No one would, so the tutor asked them to write down on a new card what price they would be prepared to bet on and they all came out with prices which were very close to each other but totally different to the first one they gave.

"So why did you do that?" asked the tutor and the answer was very revealing. The first answer was the one that could be justified to the board of the company. Its rationale could be explained in terms of trends, economic forecasts and political analyses. The second answer they could give no rationale for, but taking into account all the myriad things, and their interconnectivities, which could affect the price it just 'felt right'.

Since that day I have been a convert to intuitive planning, and going with what feels right. Also on occasions I have asked people to bet on their forecasts and, although this approach to planning is far from perfect, we get much nearer the mark than we did before.

So how do you do your plans? Could that explain why they never work out!

Web Sites

The Plexus Institute has a new web site
The section on stories towards the bottom of the main page is well worth a read for those who are interested in complexity in action.

The Sante Fe Institute is generally considered to be the birthplace of complexity theory. Their site is

The Open University's Centre for Complexity & Change can be found at
And the section on events gives details of forthcoming events.

The Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence is a non-profit research institution located in Boston and the Netherlands. Its mission is to promote pragmatic dialogue concerning the areas of networking, emergence, and complexity studies with the aim of assisting practicing managers in the complex task of managing. It is assisted by a consortium of professionals drawn from industry, academia, management consulting, and the non-profit sector.
The institute publishes the Emergence Journal which is a collection of articles of a qualitative nature relating complex systems, sense making, psychology, philosophy, semiotics, and cognitive science to the management of organisations both public and private. The articles can be read for free at

The Robert Fritz web site contains a wide range of interesting writings on complexity.

Personal Web Sites
Amanda Dale who specialises in working at the individual end of the market. She helps people find their individual purpose and also works with the concept of spiritual intelligence

This is Jennifer Crossland's web site, it has nothing to do with complexity but it is highly creative and entertaining.


The MHA Institute have stared a new series of newsletters entitled Corporate Culture and Complexity
Also there previous series on The New Sciences and the Learning Organisation is well worth a read if you have not already done so.

Worth thinking about

"Change may be triggered by numerous external influences such as ever deceasing technology cycles, demographics and globalisation but change ultimately begins in the mind. It starts with new ways of thinking about the future that are later translated into and shaped by new ways of behaving."

I can't remember where I came across this quote but it reminds me of the fact that most of the things we use in business - plans, budgets, job descriptions etc are not "real" they are only mental constructs. It is only what we think about those words and figures on a piece of paper that makes them real, and that we can chose to think about them very differently if we wish.

Interactive CD Rom

I have at long last compiled my interactive CD on "Organisations as Complex Adaptive Systems" which is aimed at those who wish to understand better how complexity theory relates to the world of work. Normally I will be charging £5 for them to cover costs but they are free to readers of this newsletter. Just let me know if you want one, and any feedback will be most welcome.

A Real Point To Ponder

The real essence of who we are is more than just the functioning of the brain as is demonstrated by the question "who is charge of you - you or your brain?" Also Anthony de Mello in his book Awareness separates out the "me" from "I" with "I" being our identity, which is not determined by our relationship with other people or things.

So who am I, what is I, where does my identity come from? Maybe it is an emergent property. All my brain impulses, which are based on my experiences, which give rise to all my thoughts and feelings are the agents in a system and their unpredictable interactions give rise to a pattern which is my identity.

Just a thought - what do you think?