Gain the competitive edge by learning from natural rules


I already knew that Giles was a bright guy (I wish I could say I have already read his book!) and that we are on a very similar wavelength BUT, if you have read any of my past blogs you will recognise a familiar message in the following extract. I know that the Executive Leadership Group with whom I have been working to form ‘Resilient Communities Network’ [RCN], AIBC & TBORI-UK have heard it all before from me but it can do no harm for them and others to hear it from another…

Akin to living systems
To succeed in business we must be agile, creative, alert, spontaneous and responsive – often operating in completely new ways. Today’s rapidly changing business environment calls for businesses that thrive in rapidly changing environments: businesses more akin to living systems. Read more of this post

The certainty of uncertainty


When the business of a business is pretty predictable, as it was in the Industrial era, there is less need to focus on resilience or responsiveness. In the old days, business could undertake planning exercises and be reasonably safe in the knowledge that the functioning of the business would be able to successfully execute its plans and that the environment would not impinge too greatly on those plans. In the modern era where knowledge is “a core commodity and the rapid production of knowledge and innovation is critical to organisational survival” (Bettis and Hitt, 1995, ‘The new competitive landscape’), business needs to get to grips with the reality of uncertainty and decreasing forecastability. Businesses also need to remember that they are living systems within wider living systems. Global environmental, political, economic and financial challenges all impact on a business’s ability to succeed.

quantum shifting

Sometimes you read something that really strikes a chord.  I recently saw this quote from Kurt Vonnegut:  “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”  In other times, I would read this and it would simply seem like a poetic truism, but I’m currently experiencing a number of shifts in my personal situation which made me read that quote as if it was written just for me.  These shifts are creating a fair amount of uncertainty and bringing up all the associated emotions that go with it.  In times like this, it is useful for me to remember that trying to control what is going on in my world will not lead to the best outcomes and in fact, that I need to call on the kind of resources that will best keep me going in times of uncertainty.  These resources, in…

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Duncan Watts [presentation]:: The Myth of Common Sense


Duncan Watts is a clever guy! Not just because he is well educated, which he undoubtedly is but because he has the ability to explain why “common sense” works in the appropriate domain(s) – simple, maybe even complicated – but is particularly dangerous in complex or chaotic domains. But, then again, that is what this definition tells us: “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts“. But when I talk about these different domains you should not visualise this as “islands” or separate entities. Rather, as various “conditions” or “states” that can be found within a single complex [adaptive] system, its sub-systems and networks at any given time, as it performs the many inter-connected processes that underpin functionality.

Why is this relevant? Because “common sense” isn’t much use if you are dealing with a system so complex that you CANNOT understand its complexity, track causality or anticipate the unintended outcomes (or unintended consequences)! Where the smallest decisions can have enormous consequences and the smartest decisions can be counter-intuitive, how can they be validated when the crowd advocate “common sense”???

I urge you to watch the presentation (even read the book!) and, if this has whetted your appetite, you may also be interested in what Atul Gawande has to say about surgeons dealing with complexity, Tim Harford talking about Oil Rigs or Dave Snowden a kids party!

Social problems…must be viewed not as the subject of rhetorical debates, but as scientific problems, in the sense that some combination of theory, data, and experiment can provide useful insights beyond that which can be derived through intuition and experience alone.

Freakonomics » The Myth of Common Sense: Why The Social World Is Less Obvious Than It Seems.

Too often we are guilty of over-estimating our own knowledge and underestimating what appears familiar even though we know that appearances can be deceptive – some “creatures” are particularly adept at exploiting this knowledge – and how much we have learnt by looking deeper (into space) or more closely (DNA, bacteria). Living systems come in all shapes and sizes but their true nature and an understanding their “structure” cannot be ascertained without observation at a variety of scales.

Complexity:: understanding living systems


Reading the attached may, in many respects, do no more than confirm what you already knew…even if aspects are so familiar that they are taken for granted.

“Living Systems” with too much order can become as fragile as those with too much chaos and one of the most significant sentences is, perhaps, the last:

You must not become complacent with a pattern that works today because new patterns will be needed in the very near future

…do we continue to wait for uncertainty like we can do nothing or do we use advanced tools [from Ontonix] to identify the “patterns” than can help us maintain “balance”?

If we don’t prepare how can we be resilient?

Animated gif showing the setting up of a gradi...

Animated gif showing the setting up of a gradient which can then be used by cells to gather information about their position early on in morphogenesis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All systems have certain characteristics in common. Non-living systems include heating and air conditioning systems, electrical systems, computer systems, radar systems, weather, the solar system and so on. Living systems include animals, people, organizations, communities, nations and the world. The following key characteristics of systems are based on General System Theory, the landmark work by Viennese biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, and other insights from the life sciences.

via Understanding Living Systems.

If you are “hungry” for more Complexity Facts, from the work undertaken by Ontonix, follow the links.