Chaos and Complexity

Here is an extract from a good, concise, blog on issues close to my heart. Even better it is part of a series on related subjects. Worth a look: Chaos and Complexity but DO NOT believe all that you read! Ontonix can provide a verifiable definition.


Complex systems are a special type of chaotic system. They display a very interesting type of emergent behavior called, logically enough, complex adaptive behavior. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. There’s a need to back up a bit and describe a fundamental behavior that occurs at the granular level and leads to complex adaptive behavior. It is self -organization.

Self Organization occurs when the individual components in a chaotic system come together to work as a team to achieve the desired goal. Remember the non-linear component of chaotic systems? This applies during self-organization and means teams may form, work for a while then fall apart and reconstitute in a different form when an obstacle is met to keep on moving forward.

Complex Adaptive Behavior is the name given to this forming-falling apart-reforming-falling apart-… behavior. Specifically it is defined as many agents working in parallel to accomplish a goal. It is conflict ridden, very fluid, and very positive. The hallmark of emergent, complex adaptive behavior is it brings about a change from the starting point that is not just different in degree but in kind. In biology a good example of this is the emergence of consciousness. Another example is the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb.

Public Sector: “complexity paralysis” – creator and casualties

Management of Complexity

Image by michael.heiss via Flickr

A recent blog about procrastination led me to get this off my mind. It has been rattling around in there for some time…

Ever had so much going on in your head that you don’t know what to do first?

Too many tasks, too little time: which “master” to satisfy?

Every issue or task has its own factors to consider: short term effect; long term impact.

Assessing cause and effect or imagining problems, leading you to “flit” – in rising desperation – from one task to another.

Imagining failure or ridicule.

Getting frustrated by your own inability to make progress and wrestling with the temptation to walk or run away.

Turning to a familiar “crutch”, such as alcohol, irrespective of health concerns.

Contemplating delegation to a potential scapegoat. “Parking” it (procrastinating) or dumping it all together.

Seeking out some trivial distraction to fool yourself that you are too busy…even just to satisfy yourself that you are doing something when, in reality, you are DOING NOTHING!

Come on be honest. You have experienced the scenario at some point in your personal or business life. But imagine (if you have to) your state of mind, if this is what you have to contend with in your working life day, after day, after day, after…

Our minds are dynamic complex systems and can – DO – reach “overload”. Falling performance, absenteeism, stress, breakdown, etc. Different for each individual but bad news all round; work; home; family; community.

Some workplaces are more prone to this scenario than others and the excessive complexity of organisations, such as those within the Public Sector in UK, that have responsibility for dealing with the effects of these stresses in our communities, are as sick – individually and collectively – as those they are trying to help! Read more of this post

Ontonix DON’T do placebo!

It is important, with so many “experts” jumping on the “complexity bandwagon”,  to highlight what Ontonix DON’T DO when we assist companies identify and tackle complexity within their organisation. We wont:

…trivialize an issue that affects the performance of the business and, if unmanaged, can destroy it.

…waste your time with “consultant-speak” about individual or collective performance.

…waste your money clocking-up hours of consultancy to build up a profile of your business and its employees.

…ask you or your staff to spend countless hours manipulating and extracting increasingly bewildering reports from your IT system.

…recycle the thoughts of others whose qualitative approach lacks a clear definition, a means to measure or credible solution to the problem.

…attempt to address complexity within your operations, systems, networks, supply chain, etc. by trotting out trite nonsense, such as –

#1 principle for managing complexity: slow down to go fast!

Blogging Innovation » More Medicine for Your Complexity Complex.


In fairness I have never tried using  “thought bubbles” and “unlearning to learn” upon some of the critical operations that enable modern business e.g. IT or communications networks, so, perhaps, I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss! Although, I doubt that we would have been able to deliver the quantitative results and improvements that we have to, such as, Air traffic control, Healthcare, Engineering design, etc.

If you prefer to rely upon a more homeopathic approach to, a potentially terminal,  system disease there is an abundance of “experienced” consultants willing and able to weave their magic. Read more of this post

Update: …More lessons from nature

COMMENTS (refer to original item for more):

After a random event like a forest fire some life remains in the scorched earth. However, apart from lost structure as an outcome [criticality] any remaining “structure” will have been starved of nourishment during the fire [ becoming fragile]. Survivors were those , often with the most robust root system, best equipped to survive, repair and stabilise. Then to renew and increase the inter-connections that are the framework and structure [complexity] that defines a complex dynamic system.

As the effectiveness of the interdependencies grows so does the complexity, diversity, robustness, chances of survival and…the ability to withstand [uncertainty] most events that beset a forest!!!

Dynamic systems are inherently complex and robust with sustainability “built in”. Exo/endo events that affect the stability, functionality, interdependencies, robustness are first reflected in the complexity of the system…..

I can’t, wouldn’t, claim credit for this extremely interesting extract from a really well informed blog by Ashwin Parameswaran – the link to the item is below and, if you like this I would recommend a visit. In view of the continuing displays of utter dis-engagement from the real world – where citizens dwell – by [the bankers’ and Corporations’ pawns] those we refer to as “Political Leaders”, I really wanted to get this out there for some thought … Read More

via A heid full of mince but at least it’s my mince!