Why systems-thinking and Complexity management are vital for survival

Collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole. Competitors who evolve as peers collapse in like manner.


The Collapse of Complex Civilisations (1988, p214)

Complexity is a characteristic of dynamic systems. It is the multiple inter-connections, sometimes referred to as the “problem-solving capability”, without which the system cannot perform its intended purpose(s). Every system has a sustainable level of complexity [critical complexity].

Butterfly Effect: Due to the inter-connectedness of systems the impact of a single (even relatively minor) event can be manifest in more than one outcome.

Catastrophic changes in the overall state of a system can ultimately derive from how it is organised — from feedback mechanisms within it, and from linkages that are latent and often unrecognised.

From a report for Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Unless the system can be observed at a variety of scales, distinguishing cause from effect may only be possible once the extent of an oversight or incorrect assumption impacts the ability of the system to perform the function(s) for which it was intended.

When it comes to epidemics of disease, financial crises, political revolutions, social movements, and dangerous ideas, we are all connected by short chains of influence. It doesn’t matter if you know about them, and it doesn’t matter if you care, they will have their effect anyway. To misunderstand this is to misunderstand the first great lesson of the connected age: we may all have our own burdens, but like it or not, we must bear each other’s burdens as well

Duncan Watts

Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age

Business systems can no longer, credibly, be structured and managed to be ‘failsafe’…because our management tools and techniques lack the requisite variety of the systems we are endeavouring to control. The most successful [complex] systems are ‘safe to fail’ and are resilient because of their inherent ability to interact interdependently, to adapt and to survive in changing environments. They are dynamic, non-linear and self-organising. NOT good news if all you know is the hierarchical structure of business and management experts, whose lack of knowledge about living systems is a source of systemic risk.

Negative outcomes impact the resilience of the system and the ecosystem [network] within which it exists: the impact is amplified, spread and accelerated – fuelled by the consumption of weak systems – communicated to, from, within and across the systems [feedback loops] until only the most resilient “structures” remain.


The current paradigm of ‘protecting’ infrastructure is unrealistic. We should shift our focus to that of resiliency. Resiliency is the capacity to maintain continuity of activities even in the face of threats, disaster, and adversity

Dr. James Carafano

Heritage Foundation, to a congressional hearing in 2008

What structure survives and what was learnt [knowledge] about the reasons and nature of collapse, form the basis for a new post-critical, growth phase…and so the panarchic cycle begins again: but renewal [reorganisation] is a much slower process than was the destruction [release] phase…

Panarchy diagram

If you are still unsure as to “what” constitutes a system or would like some more reading on the subject please complete and return the form below and I will email you a copy of my White Paper an expanded version of a speech by Thomas Honer-Dixon: “Complexity in a non-linear World”.

If you are wondering “why” is he telling me all this(?) it is because we, at Ontonix, offer the means to manage a business system at a safe distance from its point of “critical complexity” AND because our mission is to help build a more resilient global economy we recognise that, for this process to have the desired effect, we must make our services relevant and affordable to EVERY business…so that is exactly what we have done!

All you need to get started is basic financial information about your business and to follow this link:

Rate a business (OntoNet)

…I would really appreciate your feedback too.

We already work with some major Global brands and have a growing worldwide presence but complexity is a feature of EVERY business and, as growth is a natural process, it is vital that we enable smaller businesses to analyse, monitor and manage complexity for themselves.

The ability of an enterprise to demonstrate to customers, peers and other organisations within their immediate business ecosystem, that they are robust, can foster a greater understanding of the inter-connectedness. Through this process, to build resilient virtual networks, affinity groups and communities at local – national – global levels.

Resilience is a key component for ANY strategy that claims sustainability.

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