Complexity Fundamentals

Our services and technology solutions are informed by complexity thinking in seeing human organisations as Complex Adaptive Systems

A Complex Adaptive System is where independent agents (co-workers / employees) collaborate based on a set of constraints (e.g., contracts).


The agents are at the same time subject to the constraints of the organisation as well as influencers on those constraints:

  • Any observer or probing activity on a Complex Adaptive System influences the system through the very act of observing/probing.

  • The functioning of the system cannot be understood by isolated analysis of the parts - the system as a whole displays properties that are unique to the combining of the parts. 

Human Complex Adaptive Systems Are Not Predictively Repeatable

All management development approaches based on "best practice" and selecting best performing "case studies" assume that copying certain recipes based on past behaviour will predictably produce the same outcomes, despite the actual highly unique and complex dynamics of each organisation's economic, competitive, strategic contexts over time.

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

We very often make meaning when observing our world to explain successes vs. failures in very partial and selective ways: e.g.,

  • A successful team will ascribe the reasons for success to very different factors to the reasons for failure from a team working on an identical project who did not succeed.

When an organisation seeks to prove that culture translates into better business performance, and then replicate the same culture in an company they have just bought out for example, there is no guarantee of success!

Probe, Sense, Experiment, Learn

The only robust approach to impacting Complex Adaptive Systems is by virtuous cycles of incremental and dynamic probing, sensing, experimenting (safe-fail), and learning.

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