Managing Complexity

We are living in a world that is growing more and more interconnected, and therefore, complex. Systems of interactions between agents (actors) shape volatile collective networks. Consequently we find ourselves in the position of having to cope with problems that easily pass our comprehension. In the flux of issues we are confronted with, from a global scale down to the level of local communities, it is almost impossible to find events that can be dealt with in isolation. While seeking to cope with emerging conditions, politicians and managers may be aware that they are not able to fully control them. Governments, institutions and corporations are challenged to become more competent in dealing with complex problems with high levels of uncertainty and ambiguity. Often there is scant attention to important consequences over time and space that emerge from patterns of interaction between various stakeholders. These conditions ask for gaming, for interactive and participative design as a way to engage with complex problems.

The complex adaptive systems approach is a way of looking at the world, a way of thinking and acting. It provides sets of questions, concepts, and schemas, and a set of design issues to handle complexity.
To apply the complex adaptive systems approach to social systems, one would have to specify who the major actors are, what they can perceive and do, how they may generate variety in their actions, how they interact with one another, and how these actors frame and sustain their strategies through selection, retention, amplification, or extinction. While acting on local knowledge, how can multiple actors learn to enhance co-evolution?

  • Can we learn lessons from managing complexity?
  • Can we become better educated instead of more educated to cope with complexity?
  • Can we become more competent in handling complexity?