The Interaction of Complexity and Management

By Michael R. Lissack | Go to book overview

15

Business, Complexity, and “New Science”

Irene Sanders

I think Jan Rivkin’s model of the hierarchy of ideas is interesting: metaphorical, descriptive, mental hypotheses, and new information on that lower level. What are the metaphors? What can we see in terms of describing similar behaviors and different behaviors? It really began when scientists could put numbers in computers and create pictures. This allowed them to ask new questions, to develop their intuition, to see the qualitative behavior of a system over time. Now, years later, we’re just getting to that level of the hierarchy, which is one of the real theories: What is a real mathematical model?

Complexity theory is not a cohesive theory. It is not one equation. It is really a collection of ideas about the concept of change in complex adaptive systems, and that is where it appealed to me as a practitioner. It talks about the dynamics of change in a system. We have heard and written a great deal about how to control, stabilize, or manage change. I think what the new science offers us is the way to think about and see change as it’s coming, to understand how a system forms itself, how it moves and grows and changes over time, and responds and influences the environment in which it lives and operates or coevolves. So, complexity, from my perspective, was really a way to answer the questions, How can we begin to develop foresight in a constantly changing envi-

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