In this chapter Max Boisot warns that the metaphorical power of complexity theory principles can seduce managers into using them to reinforce their old paradigms. Nonetheless, it can offer a theoretical construct for helping managers more successfully address the strategic complexities that beset business today.
There is a well-known basic assumption that the more you can codify something, the more quickly and extensively you can share it. Figure 6.1 is a codification/diffusion framework that relates the extent to which knowledge is codified as it evolves with the way it is shared. On the vertical axis is the extent to which knowledge can be codified; on the horizontal axis, the extent to which it can be shared.
Traditional science starts with a small population, a scientific community, on the left of the diagram. This population is gradually working in a problem-solving mode to compress knowledge into codes, in a process that requires insight, understanding, and an appreciation of structure. Typically, the scientific community will erect a number of barriers to diffusion to make sure that what goes out is reasonably testable, valid knowledge. Of course, the dream of many sciences is to get right to the top, to a grand universal or grand unified theory, a few codes or alge-