The Interaction of Complexity and Management

By Michael R. Lissack | Go to book overview

29

A Final Thought

Michael Lissack

Over the past thirty-five years, complexity theory has become a broadranging subject that is appreciated in a variety of ways. The study of complex adaptive systems has become interdisciplinary science, focusing its modeling activities on how microstate events, whether particles, molecules, genes, neurons, human agents, or firms, self-organize into emergent aggregate structures. Complexity theory’s already strong showing in the physical and life sciences becomes more tenuous as it is translated into an organizational context. The mission of this volume and subsequent work by the authors herein is systematically to build up a base of high-quality activity aimed at supporting complexity applications to management and organization science—thereby thwarting faddish tendencies.

Bruce Henderson, the late founder of BCG, was fond of quoting Jay Forrester: “While most people understand first-order effects, few deal well with second- and third-order effects. Unfortunately, virtually everything interesting in business lies in fourth-order effects and beyond” (Stern and Stalk, 1998, p. xiv). A lesson from complexity science is that it is always valuable to examine what occurs when foreground and background are shifted (Bechtel and Richardson, 1993; Mitchell, 1995; BarYam, 1997). The added insight can suggest new relationships and new

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