Complexity

  • Social Butterfly Effect

    This title is a mixed metaphor. Picture a social butterfly, flitting from person to person and group to group. Then picture the butterfly effect from chaos theory, “Can a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” Are these connectable? Yes. What do they have to do with promoting effective action […]

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  • Explaining Risks

    The difficulties of explaining risk are the nub of the recent conviction on manslaughter changes of six Italian seismologists and a public official for inadequately forewarning the public of the L’Aquila earthquake in 2009: 309 fatalities, over 1500 injuries, and about 20,000 buildings destroyed. Seismologists classified the L’Aquila as a “moderate earthquake,” 6.3 Richter, but […]

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  • Food Risk

    Formal risk management has become common in large organizations. Risk management has become complex, standardized in ISO 31000, and meriting university degrees. Most risk assessment multiplies the consequences of an event times its probability to create a risk index. Managements can then choose to eliminate, mitigate, or accept each risk. This simplifies complex issues for […]

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  • Black Swan Swarms

    A major theme of Compression Thinking is learning how to live as well or better using much less. That simple objective is possible for a working organization to fix in mind, but complexity implementing it challenges old business thinking. From a business view, shortages, environmental constraints, and protests are just more poisonous jellyfish in an […]

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  • The Age of Connectivity

    Besides our complex environmental challenges, businesses are entering a new Age of Connectivity. The technology of connection, while baffling at times, is easier to foresee than the human changes they might entail. The engineers of network growth are ebullient indeed. A recent forecast suggests that in only four years, by 2016: The planet’s 7.3 billion […]

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  • Dealing with complexity

    Cutting Through Complexity

    A Yogi Berra definition of complexity: “If I understand it, it’s simple; if not, it’s complicated.” So how do we make things seem simple? Increasing complexity seems inevitable, so can we distinguish between useful complexity and wasteful complexity? Big History scholars contend that accelerating complexity is inevitable. Starting from the Big Bang, they present evidence […]

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  • Preparing for Black Swans

    March 29, 2011 The Sendai (or Tohoku) earthquake has been called a “Black Swan,” a totally unforeseeable event. Can organizations prepare for black swans, or that idea totally illogical hokum? An example of a pure black swan event was discovery of archaea, the third form of life other than flora and fauna. Before seeing it, […]

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  • Making Time to Think

    January 27, 2011 Making Time to Think Many of us work in a whir – no time to ask why; no time to explore any future consequences far removed. We do what is immediately necessary, like that line in the Charge of the Light Brigade, “Ours is not to question why; ours is but to […]

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  • Collective Complexity

    December 29, 2010 We marvel how individual ants with very limited skills collectively build complex hills and social systems. But human organizations must also collectively accomplish feats much too complex for any one of us alone. So what is a better way to meld our individually limited capacities into a collective marvel? That starts with […]

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  • Complexity and Communication

    Complexity and Communication

    October 5, 2010 CEOs seem to be awakening to increasing complexity, and that it could compel them to restructure their organizations. Doing this, they think, will require greater CEO creativity, according to IBM’s May CEO survey. It’s the best known of several executive surveys tending this way. Readers may recall that complexity is also an […]

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  • Antibiotics and Wicked Problems

    Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin in a mold in 1928, warned in the 1940s that overuse and misuse of antibiotics would make bacteria become resistant to them. Ever since, prolific use of antibiotics has cycled through periods of conflict followed by lulls. It’s a great illustration of a “wicked problem.” Antibiotics occur in nature. Fleming discovered […]

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  • Toyota Discovers a New World

    May 27, 2010: Toyota’s recalls are old news fading from mainstream media, but not automotive media. Core problems in the company will take time to rectify, and like everyone else that screws-up, its leadership may not be completely through denial yet. Everybody can learn from this. The entire vehicle industry, not just Toyota, is rapidly […]

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