Not the wrong trousers but the wrong science

The book, Embracing Complexity, has been accepted by Oxford University Press and will be published the summer of 2015.

The first part of the book is about the theory and ideas and science of complexity. It compares differing approaches, and also provides a historical perspective, showing how such thinking has been around since the beginning of civilisation. This has been a very interesting exploration – to see how pre-modern perspectives accord so closely with the worldview that comes from the study of evolutionary open complex systems.

The book, not surprisingly, emphasises the difference between a complexity worldview and the dominant mechanical worldview that underpins much of current management practice. It defines the complexity worldview as recognising the world is interconnected, emergent, shaped by history and the particularities of context, able to evolve, and surprise and adapt.

The book also includes a chapter on the comparison of differing approaches to modelling complexity. This is the hardest chapter to read but is thorough its depth and written to be accessibile to the non-mathematician.

The second part of the book uses this lens of complexity to explore issues in the fields of management, change, strategy, economics and international development. It also explores how to facilitate others to recognise the implications of adopting a complex rather than a mechanical worldview and suggests methods of research to explore systemic, path-dependent emergent aspects of situations. It takes a peek at what this all means, too, for us as individuals in the way we live and create meaning for our lives.

It ends with a dialogue between the authors – me, Peter Allen and Cliff Bowman – about what each of us really would like the reader to take away from the book.

It has been a long and exhausting and pain-staking journey to write this book. In the end most of the written words are mine, although the ideas are developed and held between us to varying degrees. It feels, when I re-read it, that it is ok – I surprise myself in re-reading it as if I am reading the words of someone else. It is the best I can do and I feel happy with it. And the motivation of writing remains a political one – that we are destroying the earth and our societies by continually acting as if the world is predictable and controllable AND as if a free market gives the optimal outcome. My passion to emphasise that we continually adopt the wrong science to understand the complex world is undiminished.

Now I feel that something has come to an end. I am pleased to rest awhile and smell the roses, or at least the falling autumn leaves.

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