In this chapter John Seely Brown writes about the relationship between complexity and “out of the box” thinking. He describes how complexity gives a new perspective to concepts of innovation, learning, and creativity.
I am particularly interested in how complexity theory lets us think differently about innovation, which obviously is a key topic for me as the research director of Xerox. We are beginning to understand more about the fact that technology itself is a complex adaptive system, as Kim Clark and other people are studying in terms of modularity, genetic algorithms applied to modules, the whole notion of technology platforms, and so on; and the market itself is, of course, a complex adaptive system. What there is here is the notion of a coevolutionary system, and one of the interesting issues is how the enterprise itself can tighten the loop to drive coevolution. In fact, in a very interesting way, large corporations and small corporations are in the same boat. No longer can large corporations afford to be technology followers. Large corporations have to make the rules and change the rules as much as do small enterprise corporations in Silicon Valley.
I have found two sets of tools to be increasingly useful for thinking