Chaos and complexity theory


The workshop on Chaos and Complexity Theory is designed to stretch managers’ minds with some advanced thinking.

This is done by bringing ideas developed in Evolutionary Biology, Agent-based modelling, Mathematics and theories of self organisation and examining the relevance to the business world.

There are some important ideas that have emerged from the work done by the complexity scientists.

  1. The need to be able to deal with nonlinear or unpredictable change.
  2. The need to Understand self-organisation and emergent behaviour
  3. Achieving a balance between adaptive capability and stability

The first useful step is to use a simple diagram to understand the environments in which organisations operate. This model was developed by Dave Snowden at the Cynefin Institute

The second step is to examine the alignment of the the organisational environment with the organisational type using a simple model.

This can be done using Ashby’s concept of Requisite Variety which can be illustrated in this simple graphic.

The second section all the work examines the concept of self organisation most commonly seen in starlings flocking and ant bridge building activity.

The key element of these behaviours for managers is the concept of Local Rules, the way in which local adaptation can lead to global behaviour.

Local rules develop in organisations as local notations to environmental pressures. These local rules are often not developed by men because but by members of the workforce. Successful local rules propagate and are adopted, informally, across your organisation.

This workshop discusses research done in the area and encourages managers to discuss examples they may have noted of the development of local rules and techniques that can be used to encourage and develop local rules.