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Embracing Complexity

Spring 2016
by

Nikolas Katsimpras

on 16 February 2016

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Transcript of Embracing Complexity

embracing
complexity
“The problem with quotes on the internet
is that you can't be sure of their accuracy.”
Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results
narcotics
anonymous
ADDICTION
our society's chronic responses
crime
financial collapses
social disparity
corruption
shortcomings of modern democracy
COMPLEX PROBLEMS
are we addicted to
familiar perspectives??
complexity
brain
freeze
complexity
vs

complicatedness
Glouberman and Zimmerman (2002).
Complicated and Complex Systems: What Would Successful Reform of Medicare Look Like?
Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada
denial
oversimplification
selective perception
anxiety
memory biases
perceptual distortions
avoidance
several
cognitive
limitations
• We can’t predict what will happen when various parts of the system (life) interact; the same starting conditions may yield different results.

• Seemingly simple actions produce unintended consequences.

• Human beings’ cognitive limits mean that no one can understand all aspects of the system—but many refuse to acknowledge those limits.
(Learning to Live with Complexity
Gökçe Sargut & Rita Gunther McGrath
Harvard Business Review 09/2011)
THE IRONY...
THE CHALLENGES OF THE FUTURE ARE
COMPLEX
,
AND WE ARE HORRIBLE IN THAT
life in the complex world
Complicated
systems are made up of many different parts.

For example
- A complicated watch:

- tells time

- chronometer

- show moon phases

- alarm

- indicate a power reserve.

Complex
systems have features that are also complicated , but whose interactions are
constantly changing
.

An air traffic control system is complex because its functioning depends on many variables that keep varying, such as weather, aircraft downtime, peak loading, etc.

Complicated
But
Predictable

COMPLEX
BEHAVIOR
Interdisciplinarity
&
Dynamic Resilience
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report 2013:
annual survey of more than 1,000 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society who were asked to review a landscape of 50 global risks.
alien life and hubris
- black swan


Systems thinking:

- invites speculation about
long-run versus short-run
effects.

-
sensitizes
policy makers to the pressure of
future possible stakeholders, especially future generations.

-
draws attention into the past
seeking causes that may
be buried at far spatial and temporal distances from current
symptoms within the system.

- seeks to understand the
natural reaction time
of the system.
Could today’s solution become tomorrow’s problem?
Organizations, like businesses or governments, can be swallowed by their own complexity and that of the environment they operate in.
Over the years, companies have built
complicated
systems and processes, but this has rarely given them greater control.

On the contrary: complicatedness leads to
less
control, inefficient operations and a growing distance from the customer.
Complexity
cannot be reduced.

In attempting to achieve this, processes, systems, people and organizations create bottlenecks which obstruct the process of dealing with the natural complexity in the world.

Instead, a competitive advantage in the private sector or sustainable government
in the public sector can be achieved through a different competence: embracing
complexity.

-Einstein
GLOBAL
WARMING
MARKET SYSTEM
GLOBALIZATION
GOVERNANCE
SUSTAINABILITY
CANCER
A complicated one may easily have over a thousand pieces.


Once understood, it is no longer hard to manage.


We take its degree of complicatedness for granted.
Complexity
:
multiplicity, which means the number of potentially interacting elements, such as those which affect continental air travel;

interdependence, which indicates how connected these elements are;

diversity, which means how many different sources they may come from.
“If complexity, in all its aspects, is seen as a challenge to be managed and potentially exploited, not as a problem to be eliminated, businesses can generate additional sources of profit and competitive advantage. Companies reporting low complexity [which we refer to as “complicatedness”] had the highest returns on capital employed and returns on invested capital.”
A McKinsey report outlined the business case:
We need to embrace our increasing
interdependence
, appreciate
individual contribution
, maximize
collective efficiency
Most of the most pressing challenges we are facing
cannot
be solved in a micro level (may that be a person, a unit, a state)
We need to embrace
complexity
,
interdisciplinarity
and our
limitations
We need to demonstrate
empathy
both across
space
and
time
There are
no

silver bullets
to our problems. We are now paying the price of the silver bullets of yesteryear.
embracing
complexity
war
('Insanity' quote from NA handbook (1981), pg.11)
(Learning to Live with Complexity
Gökçe Sargut & Rita Gunther McGrath
Harvard Business Review 09/2011)
de
ciphering
"...we thought for so long that if we
knew
the rules of the world that we could completely
predict
its future.

The endless
variety
of chess games, the
patterns
of snowflakes, and the
complexity
of human relationships might have suggested something different to us.

The point is not that we have been so
wrong
for so long.

The point is that it is so
difficult
to see the
simplest
things as they really are.

We become so
used
to our
assumptions
that we can no longer see them or evidence against them."

(Liebovitch & Scheurle (2000). Two lessons from fractals and chaos.Complexity Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 34-43)
(low probablity - high impact)

alien life:
effect on human belief systems

human health hubris:
drug resistance bacteria mutation outpacing medical research
WEF

2013
theme

Dynamic Resilience
necessity for our future
Burma- DST participatory feedback loop mapping
Note
:
The multiple benefits of making it explicit through participatory methods.
Nikolas Katsimpras
nkatsimpras@jjay.cuny.edu
(from Peter Coleman's "The Five Percent" (2011)
originally - Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1970)
Burma's civil war
(Note: The cure of cancer)
(Beinformed.com, "Embrace complexity,
Simplify your organization")
(Beinformed.com, "Embrace complexity,
Simplify your organization")
The power of productive Conflict
The power of productive Conflict
note
: refer to the New Deal concept for fragile states (International Dialogue on Peacebuilding
and Statebuilding)
http://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000002507537/scalded-by-coffee-then-news-media.html
Full transcript