You’re Not a Complexity Thinker When…

You’re not a complexity thinker when… you claim your interpretation of complexity is correct, while others’ are wrong. Because, among scientists, there is no consensus about complexity.

You’re not a complexity thinker when… you predict someone else’s approach to generating change will be wrong, because complexity theory denies predictions based on earlier events.

You’re not a complexity thinker when… you complain your model is misunderstood or misrepresented by many people because the point of your model should be to enable sense-making.

You’re not a complexity thinker when… you only promote your own model, and always attack other people’s models. Because complexity science is against one-size-fits-all.

You’re not a complexity thinker when… you avoid working with people who disagree with you. Because complexity absorption entails creating options and risk-hedging strategies.

You’re not a complexity thinker when… you take your own thinking too seriously.

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  • julio caldas

    Hei Jurgen,
    I´d like to recommend you to check this post from Dave Logan, Tribal Leadership.
    http://www.culturesync.net/mega-mash-up-series/how-scrum-tribal-leadership-will-change-the-world
    I hope you enjoy.
    Julio

  • PeterB

    Hi Jurgen,
    I prefer comparing scientific “approaches” (methods,
    theories), not “persons”. Thus, I’d say it’s not
    about “thinkers” [science is not a “personal” matter
    of thinkers / scientists, but it`s a special kind
    of “social” practices (communications, etc.)].
    Another point is: There is no (homogeneous or hetero-
    geneous) “science of complexity”, but rather a weakly
    profiled research area with a lot of different approaches.
    And this research area encompasses many “different”
    scientific disciplines and “essayistic” (free-)thinking.
    This essayism, esp. when it comes to questions of management and complexity, sometimes lacks profound knowledge regarding current approaches in the social sciences. So, there`s a lot
    of juggling with concepts (non-linearity, complexity, autopoiesis, deterministic chaos, etc. pp.) that should not simply be mapped onto socio-communicative / semiotic phenomena. Otherwise, it`s just some sort of pseudoscientific “babble” that tries to sell old wines (societies / organizations are just a collection of people, systems are just a product of my imagination, bla bla bla) in new conceptual or metaphorical skins.
    So, in my opinion, the question is rather: How do we decide in this weakly profiled research area related to questions of complexity between “pseudoscience” (conceptual dilettantism,
    the use of metaphors as concepts, etc.) and “science” (valid theories, etc.)? And this is a question of “quality control”, too.
    ~Peter

  • http://profile.typepad.com/galleman Glen B. Alleman

    It may be useful to look beyond the two populist business authors to the referred journals working in the complexity, chaos, and CAS world for some back ground on the taxonomy of “complexity.”
    http://www.journals.elsevier.com/chaos-solitons-and-fractals/
    http://1.usa.gov/yp0nba
    Just because there are multiple interpretations of complexity doe NOT means scientist have not consensus. A social scientist – like many of our references – differ from the Compressible Fluid Flow modelers at Sandia for nuclear weapons design. Both and many other have different interpretations, but they all share in the fundamentals of complexity and complex systems.
    Their outcomes may differ but the principles are the same.

  • Helen

    Hi Peter,
    My two points are here to follow up with your opinions.
    1. I think that it is important to evaluate a theory within the context with which the persons behind it may have limits imposed on them.
    2. I think that metaphor, as an important scientific tool, is a mechanism to explain a theory so that the theory can be seen as valid. For example, an electron with an atom is metaphorically compared with the earth within our solar system. (You can find the use in any physics textbook.)
    ~Helen

  • PeterB

    Hi Helen,
    ad 1.:
    I see what you mean, but I still wouldn`t
    “personalize” science. So, it`s not Newton vs. Einstein (in physics) or Habermas vs. Luhmann vs. Derrida (in sociology / philosophy), etc.
    (those are only “brand names” for complex theory formations).
    I´d rather prefer a difference-based position: an approach gains its differential profile by “refering” to other competing approaches in a certain communication context. Therefore, to understand an approach A, it`s not enough to study that approach in isolation (= intra-perspective), but it’s necessary to reconstruct to a certain extent the communication context where approach A refers to other approaches B, C, etc. (= inter-perspective), too.
    Is a further “personalization” useful? It depends. Perhaps someone understands, for example, the “Extreme Programming” (XP)-approach better, if (s)he knows something of Kent Beck`s biography, too. But I don’t think
    personalization is useful when it comes to algorithms, mathematical models, etc.
    ad 2.:
    Yes, I agree. Metaphors are a primary
    mechanism in sign processing, and they are useful and necessary in science, too.
    But wishy-washy transfers from one scientific
    discipline to another aren’t helpful. For example:
    * “Autopoiesis” in the context of biology (-> Varela / Maturana) cannot be mapped directly onto communicative and sign-processing
    processes in the social dimension. To use this concept in the social sciences, a re-conceptualization is necessary, and then the
    meaning might be quite different.
    * Mandelbrot`s “fractals” have a mathematical
    foundation. But if someone describes semiotic products in socio-communicative processes as “self-similar”, I doubt that (s)he knows what (s)he is talking about – esp. when there`s no mathematical foundation at all or the mathematical tools (such as the “Laws of Form” by George Spencer Brown used by some sociologists) are primarily rhetorical / metaphorical devices.
    ~Peter

  • Helen

    Hi, Peter,
    Thanks for your long answer. Here comes my short one.
    Nick Naylor: That’s the beauty of argument, if you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.
    quoted from Thank You for Smoking (2005) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0427944/
    ~Helen

  • PeterB

    Hi Glen,
    thanks for the links!
    But I think you overestimate “consensus”,
    at least in the social sciences. The question of “social emergence”, i.e. the “social” as an emergent dimension sui generis, is still a controversial topic. So, it`s highly contested how this social dimension is best conceptualized:
    * Are human agents (actors) part of the socio-communicative processes (and how is this possible)? Or ist there, for example, a “co-evolution” of consciousness systems and social systems (and how is this possible)?
    * What’s the role of “semiosis” (or of proto-concepts such as différance, calculus of indication, etc.) in this context?
    etc.
    In short, I see still “a lot” of room for controversy in the social sciences even when it comes to “principles”. So, not only the outcomes might differ,the starting points
    might differ, too.
    ~Peter

  • PeterB

    Hi Helen,
    1:0 for the short answer 🙂
    ~Peter

  • http://profile.typepad.com/galleman Glen B. Alleman

    Peter,
    There is controversy in most segments of complexity studies, but to say there is no consensus about complexity is way to broad and not substantiated by the facts of specific domains. Once again a generalization of the populist point of view.
    Social sciences are only one aspects of complexity. On another end of the spectrum is Simon’s Architecture of Complexity. And even further toward the other end is Large-Scale Simulations for Complex Adaptive Systems with Application to Biological Domains Donghang Guo.
    There is a useful “reading list” at http://1.usa.gov/yp0nba which is mentioned in today’s post http://bit.ly/wTB7rP
    So Peter, can you recommend a literature search that would provide insight into there is “a lot room for controversy,” that might provide a basis of discussion as to what kind of controversy?

  • PeterB

    Hi Glen
    I was refering to the question of “social emergence” in sociology. It’s unclear how
    to conceptualize the “social dimension”, i.e.,
    it’s still an unsolved question in sociology open for debate:
    * Do we conceptualize the social as a dimension “sui generis”, for example as specific self-referential communication systems (-> Luhmann + Co.), or can we trace it back to “individual” actions (by actors / human agents)?
    * And what is the relationship between “actions” and “communications” in the social realm?
    * How do we conceptualize “communication”? Do we use, for instance, a kind of “social calculus” (Dirk Baecker & Co)? Or do we work with a proto-concept such as Derrida´s différance?
    * What is the interplay between “consciousness systems” (again: how do we conceptualize this system?) and “communication” (social systems)?
    * How do we conceptualize “systems” in this context? (paradox and self-referential, auto-
    poietic, etc.)?
    * How are consciousness and communication (as systems sui generis) “coupled” (= operational
    and structural coupling)?
    * What is the role of “semiosis” (sign-proces-sing) in this context? And what kind of sign concept do we use (for example: a Saussurean dyadic or a Peircean triadic sign concept)?
    * And is binary logic creating paradoxes when
    it comes to self-referential phenomena of “re-entry” (George Spencer Brown) enough? Or do
    we need a kind of multi-valued logic (for example, Gotthard Guenther) in this context?
    etc.
    So, I`d say there’s a lot of “experimenting” (theorizing, etc.) going on in sociology, and we just have to see what is viable and what is not in the middle and long term.
    Regarding literature: I`ll get back to you later (this evening or tomorrow). Unfortunately, I`ve to do some errands right now.
    Cheers
    Peter

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mikeclaytonwordpresscom Mikeclayton.wordpress.com

    I suspect Glen and Peter are running up against the problem of rigour. Not all sciences apply the same levels of rigour to their methodologies and not all scientists within a discipline are equally rigorous in their thinking and analysis.
    My experience (as an observer only) is that some social scientists act as if throwing a stats package at a narrow set of data is rigour. We need to admit that not all disciplines exhibit equal definitional or quantitative rigour. This isn’t a criticism: it’s the nature of what they study.
    One of my favourite sayings is that all science is physics: chemistry is applied physics, biology is applied chemistry, ethology is applied biology, and social sciences are ethology applied to humans. At each level, a new level and type of complexity applies.
    No wonder the different disciplines see complexity differently – like the blind men and the elephant. That does not mean that there is not some underlying “essence” of complexity that applies throughout. You and I may not agree on the definition of that. But, as our knowledge and evidence base grow, we will find that some definitions fall away as obviously erroneous or less useful. Others will stand the test of time and emerge as a dominant understanding…
    Until they are falsified and science moves on.
    Just because complexity has been around for most of our lives, it feels mature. It is actually still a pretty new and evolving discipline. The amount of active research and debate supports this view.
    For me the wonderful thing about complexity is the way that small variations of a very few simple rules create a lot of different outcomes. At the deepest level, there is consensus on that. Where observers will often differ is in their hypotheses about the nature of the underlying rules within the system of study. Here, a lack of consensus is just a stage in the research process.

  • http://blog.vicompany.nl Ivo van Halen

    Hmm this while discussion sounds a bit “complex” to me

  • http://herdingcats.typepad.com Glen B Alleman

    Peter,
    Where would I (or you) look in the literature for answers to these questions?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/galleman Glen B. Alleman

    Mike,
    My core issue is one of domain and context. The OP states – Because, among scientists, there is no consensus about complexity.
    Which scientist, which domain, which context in which domain. Rigor and discipline is needed for any complex problem. More rigor in how we speak about complexity will add value.
    http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA475370 is one place to look for rigor and discipline in one of the many domains of complexity including the social sciences that Peter speaks to.
    I still owe you a review of Risk Happens, it’s coming soon ;>)

  • PeterB

    Hi Glen
    apropos literature regarding the contested problem of “social emergence / constitution” [possible search terms in Google: “social emergence”, “systems theory, sociology”, “Luhmann”, etc.]:
    * K.R. Sawyer (2005), “Social Emergence: Societies As Complex Systems”, Cambridge University Press. For an intro see:
    http://www.irma-international.org/viewtitle/19614/
    [Note: In my opinion, this is still a quite “classical” approach assuming the preexistence of (human) individual agents. Other approaches such as sociological systems theory (Luhmann & Co) or discourse theory (Ernesto Laclau) have abandoned this assumption].
    * For an intro to Luhmann`s sociological systems theory and the question of “social emergence”, see M. Salgado / N. Gilbert, “Emergence and Communication”, http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/1589/1/fulltext.pdf
    * For critical positions regarding Luhmann, see for instance:
    – D. Elder-Vass (2007), “Luhmann and Emergentism. Competing Paradigms for Social Systems Theory?”, http://pos.sagepub.com/content/37/4/408
    – P. Yu-ze Wan (2011), “Emergence à la Systems Theory: Epistemological Totalausschluss or Ontological Novelty?”, http://pos.sagepub.com/content/41/2/178
    * For refinements of Luhmann`s approach, see esp.:
    – D. Baecker who proposes the use of a “social calculus” based on G. Spencers Brown’s “calculus of indications” for explaining how (social) communication systems work. Some of his articles can be downloaded from the following URL: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=856212
    – P. Fuchs who uses a différance-based approach inspired by J. Derrida regarding the social / communication processes. He rather opposes Baecker`s use of a “social calculus”. Unfortunately, most of his books and articles are written in German. Therefore, I don`t provide a link here.
    * Then there are other non-Luhmannian systems
    theoretical approaches in sociology such as P.J. Hejl’s systems theory inspired by Varela / Maturana and radical constructivism. URL:
    http://www.uni-siegen.de/ifm/personen/hejl/publikationsliste_peter_hejl.pdf
    * For other non-systems theoretical approaches regarding the constitution of the social, see for instance:
    – Dave Elder-Vass, “The Causal Power of Social Structures: Emergence, Structure and Agency”,
    Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2010
    [Note: This is a contribution to the debate between “structurationists” (esp. A. Giddens) and the so-called “post-structurationists” in British sociology].
    – the “discourse theory” of E. Laclau inspired by Wittgenstein II, Derrida, and others. For a research program see:
    http://www.essex.ac.uk/idaworld/IDAresearchprog.html
    – For an individualistic position [a variant of methodological individualism] regarding the social, see esp. “rational choice theories” which are popular in microeconomics, but also in sociology (-> James S. Coleman, 1990, “Foundations of Social Theory”, or Hartmut Esser]
    I could continue with other approaches regarding the “social dimension” (Bourdieu,
    Harrison C. White, Bruno Latour, etc.), but
    I`ll stop here.
    As I said, I see still “a lot” of room for controversy in sociology in particular and in the social sciences in general when it comes to the “constitution of the social dimension” (-> questions of micro-macro-levels, emergent qualities, action and communication, systems- vs. agent-based approaches, etc. pp.).
    Cheers
    Peter
    PS –
    Sorry for the long answer. Perhaps next time,
    I´ll better send you a private email.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/galleman Glen B. Alleman

    Peter,
    I’ve started a PearlTree for “complexity.”
    http://pear.ly/baHEn is the root. There are dozens of resources on complexity, many in the social sciences of course. Many in the complex systems related to projects, products, and systems that involve humans interacting with these systems.
    I’ll keep updating this, so if you’d like to subscribe you can add information as well.
    Back to the OP – what scientist, what domain, what expected outcome?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/galleman Glen B. Alleman

    Peter,
    thanks for the links, I’ll start looking through them.
    No apologies needed, this is an important topic and needs an in depth assessment to have any credible discussion.
    Did you find anything in the Canadian Forces reading list of value on this domain of CS?

  • PeterB

    Hi Mike
    yes, I agree. The different types of “rigor” (even within the same sub-discipline) may be
    a problem. But the whole story starts with
    competing “basic decisions” (similar to value
    decisions or religious decisions):
    * Do we need “basic research”, esp. in the form of more or less complex theories, in the social sciences at all? Sociologists normally say “yes”, but I met enough political scientists who said that such basic research was a waste of time.
    * Even if we can agree on the importance of (sociological) basic research, what research question is crucial? I think that the question of how the “social is constituted” is important because the possible answers (social emergence or methodological individualism, social calculus or not, etc.) orient / determine further outcomes in sociological research. But others might disagree.
    * Do we choose a quantitative or qualitative approach?
    * And what kind of theory / method or set of theories / methods are best suited for dealing
    with the research question xy? And the more complex such theories are, the less they may be
    falsifiable (my position: basic theoretical decisions resemble rather “value-based” decisions that are difficult to falsify).
    * And even if we can agree on a research question, on suitable theories and methods, there are always a lot of intricacies in the details.
    In a nutshell, there are often no easy answers in science. And there is always enough room for debate, controversy and dissensus even (or shouldn`t I write: “especially”?) among experts.
    This doesn`t exclude zones of consensus. But I wouldn`t overestimate those zones.
    ~Peter

  • PeterB

    Hi Glen
    well, it depends on your “interests” and prior
    knowledge. If you`re interested in some advanced sociological research regarding self-reference / paradoxa, communication, social calculus, etc., I`d recommend the works of Dirk Baecker (and Niklas Luhmann, of course).
    * One key text of Luhmann is “Social
    systems” (1984). For the English edition, see:
    http://www.amazon.com/Social-Systems-Writing-Science-Luhmann/dp/0804726256/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1327741101&sr=8-9
    This book laid the foundations for what has been developed in sociological systems theory (at least in the Bielefeld tradition) since 1984(self-reference, autopoiesis, communication processes, structural coupling of systems, and so on).
    If you don`t want to “suffer” [:-)] too much,
    then start with suitable “introductory” texts to Luhmann`s version of systems theory [for example, Salgado / Gilbert, “Emergence and Communication” might be a good start].
    * One of Baecker`s key texts is:
    – “Form und Formen der Kommunikation”. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2005 [Note: I don`t know if there`s an English translation available]
    – But you could start with some of his articles in English (choose what you find interesting,
    for ex.: “Why systems?”):
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=856212
    – Baecker is important not only for sociological basic research (social calculus, self-reference, etc.), but also for systems theoretical questions of “management” and “organizations”. I`d say whoever writes something about those subjects without having read Dirk Baecker has definitely missed something interesting!
    * What seems to be a hot topic nowadays
    is combining and contrasting relational / network-based sociology (-> Harrison C. White)
    with sociological systems theory (Luhmann, Baecker, and others).
    This is the route I wanted to follow when writing about software development / IT project management (as I have a social sciences and computer science background).
    To sum up, there`s a “lot of” ground to cover when it comes to the research question of how to conceptualize the social dimension. As our lives are short, it may be wise to focus on the subject of “social emergence” (as one of the possible answers to the research question mentioned).
    And sociological systems theory (Luhmann / Baecker) is definitely an interesting
    starting point for complexity researchers (in the social sciences), too.
    But as always: Others might disagree 🙂
    Cheers
    Peter

  • PeterB

    By the way:
    “Cybernetics & Human Knowing: A Journal of Second-Order Cybernetics, Autopoiesis, and Cyber-Semiotics” is also a good read.
    I just cite the journal`s description [see: http://www.chkjournal.org/%5D. Perhaps some readers of Jurgen`s blog find this information
    interesting:
    “Cybernetics and Human Knowing is a quarterly international multi- and transdisciplinary journal focusing on second-order cybernetics and cybersemiotic approaches.
    The journal is devoted to the new understandings of the self-organizing processes of information and signification in living and artificial systems as well as human knowing that have arisen through second order cybernetics and autopoiesis and their relation to and relevance for other interdisciplinary approaches such as C.S. Peirce’s semiotics and biosemiotics. This new development within the area of knowledge-directed processes is a non- or transdisciplinary approach. Through the concept of self-reference it explores: cognition, communication and languaging in all of its manifestations; our understanding of organization and information in human, artificial and natural systems; and our understanding of understanding within the natural and social sciences, humanities, computer, information and library science, and in social practices like design, education, organization, teaching, medicine, therapy, art, management and politics. […]”
    ~Peter

  • PeterB

    Glen,
    yes, I found the reading list of the Canadian Forces quite interesting! But regarding the “social sciences / sociology”, I`d say this list is “not” state of the art.
    But regarding the relationship between sociology and computer science in complexity research: What I find fascinating is if we try to simulate more systems theoretical concepts (in sociology) with computer programs. See, for example, the socionics approach: http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/10/1/11.html
    Or some years ago, I collected information regarding the relationship of Spencer Brown`s calculus of indication / Dirk Baecker´s social calculus and cellular automata. Unfortunately,
    I never found the time to pursue this route.
    What I found “funny” in this reading list (because I`ve to deal with model-driven SOA at
    the moment) is the mentioning of “Business Model and Notation” (BPMN). Well, BPMN and other domain-specific modeling notations are definitely interesting, but they might be too “specific” (= business-oriented) in this context.
    In other words, they might be not very helpful in complexity research – even if they`re useful tools in managing concrete business complexity.
    ~Peter

  • PeterB

    Cool thing – yes, I`ll check it out.
    Have a nice weekend
    ~Peter

  • http://herdingcats.typepad.com Glen B Alleman

    Peter,
    I’m starting to understand you’re approach. My interests are on the business side of complexity, more than the theory of social systems. I know people are involved in the business, but not generalized people, since we can select who is in the business.
    The Canadian Forces list IS dated, but has seminal papers for those of us on the business and systems side.
    At the end I would hope Stoos will provide advice for those tasked with improving the processes of their business, because it IS all about “stakeholder value.”
    No stakeholders = No revenue = You’re unemployed.

  • PeterB

    Hi Glen,
    If I were you, I wouldn`t dig too deep in sociological basic research, unless you`ve
    got a “lot” (!) of free time available.
    But you should definitely give Dirk Baecker
    a try: not because of his basic research,
    but because of his “management and organiza-
    tion approach” based on his basic research.
    Or to formulate two provocative theses:
    1) If someone studying the domain of “management, leadership, organization and complexity” doesn`t consider “self-reference” as an essential concept, (s)he is “not” state of the art.
    2) And vice versa: If someone considers “self-reference” in those topics, a “lot” of things will change.
    For instance, you wouldn`t believe any more that management / leadership is simply about:
    * “communication” (in an everyday sense),
    * “people” (including the assumption “an organization is just a bunch of people”)
    * “change”
    etc.
    Or in other words: The concept of “complexity” isn`t enough as long as such everyday assumptions [“people”, “humans”, “individuals”, etc. – brrr :-)] remain intact. Advanced sociological research allows us to dig deeper – “much” deeper.
    Now I can see you rolling your eyes and thinking: “Sure, Peter. And pigs can fly!”
    As reading is (sometimes) believing, you should
    give the following article “The form of the firm” a try [forget about the other links I recommended]:
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=856212
    So, if you want to explore sociological systems theory, start with the subjects of management”, “leadership”, and “organziation” – and then try to acquire the basic knowledge you might need.
    But I wouldn`t do it the other way around (like I did): from sociological basic research to questions of management and organization. This requires a lot of energy and time that normal “people” [didn`t I write: “brrr”? :-)] simply don`t have – even if they are social scientists!
    And by the way: What would your clients think if you`d say in a concrete project: “Oh, well.
    There`s this cool self-referential theory that
    allows me to understand management, leadership
    and organization problems much better. But I need 1-2 years of intensive learning just to understand the basics.” 😉
    Cheers,
    Peter

  • http://profile.typepad.com/galleman Glen B. Alleman

    Peter and Mike,
    The challenge still remains – in what domain are we speaking. Any outcomes – IMPO – must provide some tangible benefit to the “buyer” unless the topic is purely academic.
    Here’s and example of complex systems and humans involved in those complex systems in a domain.
    This is a tangible outcome of humans interacting with complex systems – in this case the F-119 engine.
    Where on the spectrum does this domain fit, I don’t know, but much of the discussion are sociology seems far removed from the business management aspects of “delighting the customer,” which seems to be one topic of Stoos.

  • http://herdingcats.typepad.com Glen B Alleman

    Peter,
    While putting away the Christmas stuff in the basement (yes it is Jan 28), came across materials from Robert Horn of Sanford http://www.macrovu.com. Here’s his presentations http://bit.ly/AkEKds.
    The concept here is that complex systems involve many participants. What he calls “social messes.”
    Horn was an early thinker on “strategy maps,” and interaction maps. Between people, processes, and tools.
    May be a way to bridge some gaps in different domains.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/galleman Glen B. Alleman

    Peter,
    Gold Mine, thanks. The paper on Hitler is especially useful, since our daughter has a class this term on WWII from the view of the perpetrators.
    can you drop me a note to glen dot alleman at niwotridge dot com and we’ll continue this is a wide bandwidth channel. Great references thanks again.

  • PeterB

    Hi Glen,
    “social mess” sounds interesting, but I wouldn`t call it a “social system” because on an “operational” level there`s no mess possible. Otherwise, there would be no operational boundary maintenance.
    Or, in other words, a dynamic (living, perceiving / thinking, communicating)
    system can`t operate in its system-specific environment. So, when operations (think – think – think…, communicate – communicate – communicate…) refer to each other, then such a system is created, and the boundary to its environment is maintained.
    In contrast, “operational mess” would mean “system collapse” -> no system -> no environment -> nada.
    As a semiotic construct such as a metaphor, “social mess” is ok. But, if this expression makes sense, depends on the epistemic context,
    so I`ll have to check it.
    ~Peter

  • PB

    Glen,
    I just checked one of R. Horn`s powerpoints.
    Visualizing complex situations and the interrelatedness of complex problems is a good
    thing.
    But one caveat (I learned this when using business modeling notations such as BPMN):
    Visualizing is “not intrinsically” better than pure text. Graphics, etc. have to be designed (from the beginning!)in such a way that they’re more effective and efficient in information processing than pure texts.
    This includes the use of “criteria” of different scientific disciplines such as semiotics, cartography, cognitive psychology, etc. Therefore, “intuition” is not enough!
    * Usability tests should be done, too.
    See:
    Moody, D. (2009), The “Physics” of Notations: Toward a Scientific Basis for Constructing Visual Notations in Software Engineering, URL:
    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=5353439
    ~Peter

  • PB

    Glen, at first sight, you`re right. Sociology seems to be far away from “business management” (value creation, etc.). But as you have to deal with questions such as:
    * Why does my organization doesn`t “change”, “learn”, etc. as expected / planned?
    * Why is there so much micro-politics?
    * Why do “heroic” management strategies (control, plans, intervention, etc.) fail?
    etc.
    Well, sociology / systems theory (with its self-referential and, thus, paradox communication systems) can be a kind of “perturbator” (in a positive sense) showing new ways of thinking, communicating, and, perhaps, of doing things regarding interactions, organizations, and leadership / management.
    But it`s no miracle cure that can solve all
    interactional, organizational, and societal “messes” [I think I start to like Robert Horn :-)].
    Therefore, sociological systems theory is “much more” modest than (classical) marxism, for example, when it comes to changing social structures.
    ~Peter

  • PB

    Btw:
    Jurgen wrote in a previous blog post about Stoos:
    “Organizations can become learning networks of individuals creating value”
    Well, sociology in general and sociological systems theory in particular will explain
    why individuals and organizations hate to learn, to change, to adapt -> as planned / expected” <- 😉 ~Peter

  • http://herdingcats.typepad.com Glen B Alleman

    Peter,
    What visual does in my experience is allow the participants to stand in from of the “big visible chart” (BVC) and wave their hands in ways not possible in textual representations of the problem and its solution.
    Page 11 of http://slidesha.re/zfsPL0 is an example of a BVC for a large complex space craft development with 100’s of people participating over several years work.

  • PB

    Hi Glen,
    yes, I agree. BVCs and similar visualization
    techniques can be a big help for understanding complex relationships because they don`t follow a “sequential”, but rather a “simultaneous” mode.
    But what Moody writes “does” make sense to me: intuitive visualization isn`t necessarily or automatically or in all cases more effective / efficient in processing complex information than texts.
    Therefore, when “visualizing” (creating graphs, charts, diagrams, visual models, for ex. BPMN models, etc.), it`s useful to consider visualization / information processing criteria by Moody (and others).
    Another point is: “Multi-Modeling” in enterprises. I think we need effective tools
    that enable us to create different kinds of models:
    * organizational models,
    * (enterprise-wide) business process models,
    * data models such as UML diagrams,
    etc. [this could also include models that
    show complex relationships of specific problem spaces].
    This is useful for analysis or documentation purposes. But it’s also useful for realizing model-driven SOAs / creating soft-centric applications (that`s what I´m particularly interested in – from an IT perspective).
    Some of the requirements in this context are then:
    * We have to be able to manage all those heterogenous models in an enterprise or even between organization (this includes “versioning”).
    * We need “integrated” (probably plugin-based)
    software with an homogeneous user interface (horror is for me to work with a lot of different tools that aren`t integrated at all),
    too.
    * Multiple views (from different abstract to
    detailed, perhaps technical views) are also
    necessary.
    * It should be possible to automatically create
    executable business process models.
    etc.
    Oracle and others are going in this direction.
    So, the next step could be to combine “visualization techniques” (for example whiteboard, BVCs, etc.) with “modeling techniques” so that
    * we can further narrow the business – IT gap,
    * make businesses more flexible / agile (because they’re less hampered by IT systems being difficult to modify),
    * we can better manage business “and” technical complexity.
    ~Peter

  • http://profile.typepad.com/planboxinc PlanboxInc

    I’d add:
    You’re not a complexity thinker when you can’t surround yourself with people who know more than you in certain subject matters.
    Mag, Planbox PM

  • http://profile.typepad.com/planboxinc PlanboxInc

    What about: You’re not a complexity thinker when you can’t surround yourself with people who know more than you in certain subject matters.
    You think that applies?
    Mag, Planbox PM

  • PB

    Hi Mag,
    1) Seems to be a “personality issue”:
    If you`ve got a “strong” personality
    (good self-esteem, etc.), you’ll probably
    like “strong” people in your environment.
    If you fear them (because you feel
    insecure, etc.), you’ll probably avoid them.
    But “personality issues” and the “ability
    to think complex” aren’t congruent because
    you could, for instance, be a genius suffering from social phobia 🙂
    2) I think the whole “complexity thinker is”-
    debate isn`t very interesting. I`d say: focus
    on
    a) Concepts, theories, methods and tools
    b) Networks (connections with interested and interesting people)
    c) Moreover, I think one “blind spot” of the “management + complexity” discussion is that there`s little knowledge about current sociological approaches (apart, perhaps, from CAS in sociology). Consequently, “social” phenomena such as management, orgas, leadership are explained by refering to:
    * your personal experience -> “anecdotal evidence” (Glen),
    * analogous and metaphorical thinking (orgas are “living”, and so on).
    And this means that complexity thinkers (at least in this context) try to explain “social” phenomena without resorting to socioscientific / sociological knowledge.
    This doesn`t make sense at all because physics,
    chemistry, computer science, etc. are only of
    “little” use for explaining the social dimension. They might “complement” socioscientific analysis and explanation, but
    they`re “no substitute” for it!
    Nevertheless, I`m not against “CAS”. What is really important is to compare for
    self-reference oriented approaches (esp. sociological systems and form theory) with CAS, and then apply this knowledge to the analysis of management and organisation “phenomena”.
    I intend to put a blog online where I pursue
    this route – but, of course, I can`t do this
    alone. We need “many” researchers who follow
    this route.
    So, my suggestion is in short: don`t focus on who is or who is not a complexity “thinker” (that`s boring), but let`s focus on improving our conceptual and theoretical “tools”!
    Of course, others might disagree and
    shout: “But we want simple, i.e. not too
    complex approaches for complex (social) phenomena”.
    Well, then you should really check Ashby`s cybernetic “Law of requisite variety”.
    ~Peter

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