Complexity and Strategy

In: Business and Management

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Part IV
Emerging and Integrating Perspectives

January-2007

MAC/ADSM

Page-213

1403_985928_17_cha14

January-2007

MAC/ADSM

Page-214

1403_985928_17_cha14

CHAPTER 14

Complexity Perspective
Jean Boulton and Peter Allen

Basic principles
The notion that the world is complex and uncertain and potentially fast-changing is much more readily acceptable as a statement of the obvious than it might have been 30 years ago when complexity science was born. This emerging worldview sits in contradistinction to the view of the world as predictable, linear, measurable and controllable, indeed mechanical; it is the so-called mechanical worldview which underpins many traditional approaches to strategy development and general management theory (see
Mintzberg, 2002 for an overview).
The complexity worldview presents a new, integrated picture of the behaviour of organisations, marketplaces, economies and political infrastructures; these are indeed complex systems as we will explain below. Some of these behaviours are recognised in other theories and other empirical work.
Complexity theory is unique in deriving these concepts through the lens of a coherent, self-consistent scientific perspective whilst nevertheless applying it to everyday, practical problems.
These key principles can be summarised here:
There is more than one possible future
This is a very profound point. We are willing to accept the future may be too complicated to know, but the notion that the way the future may evolve is, generally,unknowable in principle fundamentally changes our notion of reality as being something that is unfixed and emergent. The future does not yet exist; it is created and not merely discovered.
Tipping
Organisations, economies or other complex systems may tip into new forms with radically new characteristics; some of these characteristics may…...

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