Teach them Euclid, not Gell-Mann. Byron, not Biz Admin.

Posted: October 1, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,
They want to teach managers “complexity”.

How silly.  

For one thing, nobody knows what to do, pragmatically, about complexity.

Secondly, you can’t teach non-linearity to people who know nothing about math, systems theory, linearity, probability, calculus, etc.

Despite claims of “scientific management” and “taylorism”, the scientific approach never made it to the hearts and minds of managers. Less than 5 percent of them have been trained scientifically. The vast majority merely go through a technical and professional education: accounting, marketing, vanilla statistics, “strategy”, etc.

Teach them scientific methods and approaches. Teach them how to be rigorous; how to be open-minded; how to be inquisitive; how to be curious; how to communicate unambiguously. (N.B.: the latter requisite calls for language mastery in addition to logic).

And also teach them the grand metaphors that Art has been creating ever since the advent of homo sapiens. Through art, literaure, music, we find out as much about humanity, and the real world, as with science itself -if not more.

(This does not mean running those horrifying seminars where CEO’s are thought how to use Art in Management: it means that, when they are young, to-be managers should be thought literature, art, music, etc.)

  1. Ada says:

    sounds like a bit of a restrictive requirement of managment, doesn’t it?

    • paolomagrassi says:

      Ada, it certainly is. But still more manageable than teaching them nonlinear systems dynamics, chaos theory, etc etc when they are grown up…

  2. “Teach them how to be rigorous; how to be open-minded; how to be inquisitive; how to be curious; how to communicate unambiguously”: do you know more than 5 percent of manager trainers doing one of what you write?

    • paolomagrassi says:

      Stefano, of course not. But please consider that I was referring to school (secondary and tertiary), not management training.

  3. ada says:

    the “ah ah, complexity” trend is unstoppable. there is no fighting back

  4. chuckfrey@consultant.com says:

    I do not like your writings.

    1. I know nothing about the science aspects of complexity. Yet I can rap with a Nobel Laureat about this . If there is any area of complexity and management you wish to challenge me, go ahead (email me) . If the area pertains to math then I will tell you that I do not know. But if the area pertains to management using complexity theory, the individual and so forth, I am a management consultant and can rap with the best.

    2. You make the mistaken erroneous assumption that one has to know the math (etc.). In fact the what matters to me (not to all) is pragmaticism: do I can results ? Yes. Do I help others get results ? Yes. Can this be tested with group A using conventional management strategies and group B using “so called” complexity theory my way with management ? Yes. What can we measure? [a] satisfaction ! Is the group more satisfied to be informed by a different theory ? Yes. [b] Results? Yes – by and large. How so? For example in sales, with complexity thinking, it is no longer thinking about the “me” but about the “we”. It is no longer about “getting and closing the sale” but about “seeing if there is a (evolutionary) fit between what one offers and the client”.

    In LEADERSHIP (in analog with sales it is about persuasion), it is no longer about command and control nor forced change (doesn’t work) nor details voluminous plans (of little use after a certain point) but about setting about boundary conditions and enabling agent to have AUTONOMY, MASTERY (training but improvement in their skill) and PURPOSE [Dan Pink]. It is using Microsoft or Google or 3M or Apple style whereby there are specific tasks, plenty of time and X% of time at work can be spent on personal projects.

    In corporate employment it is about STRENGTHS : fitting (oops that word again: FIT from evolution) strengths to the role.

    In setting up task teams it is about being informed by NETWORK science, so “Crews” (not teams) can come together (starfish: no central brain not spider/central brain) with a group identity (not social atomism) and engage.

    In PROJECT MANAGEMENT, it is not longer about Waterfall but about Agile.

    In New Business Building it about “Lean Start Up” and “Four Epiphanies” – i..e iteration.

    I can go on and on and on. It is good you have your point of view but it is both erroneous and you do realise a total waste of time ? Your book on Amazon doesn’t have “1” sale: you have wasted so much time ! What for ? You are not even published in any respectable scientific journal (I looked before writing to you to see who I am dealing with).

  5. paolomagrassi says:

    thanks for providing me with valuable insight on your views. I regret not knowing you.
    Please be advised that we’re talking about radically different things. Do not waste your time reading this blog further, as I am afraid -and apologetic- there is nothing in it for you.
    Congratulations for your work as described above!
    And all the best,

    • chuckfrey@consultant.com says:

      I apologise if I have misunderstood you! I used a method from complexity science invented by me to read at abnormally high speeds. There is a tradeoff: I may miss out important points. I have obviously failed to understand you. Please advice me.

      I thought you were/are saying that modernly teaching complexity science – in management – is wrong because to grasp complexity science, one must understand it deeply, namely the math involved and so forth. In contrast, I am telling you that I believe that I am a world expert on complexity science but without the math knowledge ! The question that begs to be asked is “how then can I be an expert?” The answer is “results value”, “theory value”, but without the harder elements like the math. This means that based upon complexity science and abstracted from it, I get results (but so do many others) using complexity. To concretise this: let’s look at using PD (positive deviance) with hospitals in the U.S.

      Informed by complexity science, and with No knowledge of math, people have reduced the number of potential deaths by over 100,000 (this is the low’est’ ball figure and inaccurate because the numbers are much higher). In hospitals we have bred bio-weapon that is resistant to antibiotics: Mercer. We can prevent infection by simply ‘washing hands’ ! Yet it was found that even expert medics did not wash hands ‘often enough’ ! By re-arranging items in the hospital such as having the hand-wash sink where the patient can observe the doc, the doc is forced to wash their hands in front of the patient! Further there is cultural change in many (not all places) where juniors can tell docs to wash their hands ! Using complexity science: we could and did:

      1. Get everyone to listen to each other regardless of rank (in such setting ordinarily “rank” is paramount ! )

      2. Rearrange the ecosystem – structural change leading to other changes – the above results.

      3. Create and foster a better climate (even work satisfaction).

      4. Notice local excellent practices, (distinguished from best practices) called positive deviance and use it so other can model it. There is never ending betterment.

      5. Get permission and budget to charge for this, to distinguish it from conventional management practice (MBA etc.), to measure things that would not otherwise have been considered important (e.g. number of deaths prevented due to above changes; satisfaction of people working there to being heard etc.)

      And a confession – I have no degree,was booted out of university, yet am out-earning PhD. Professors in the sciences and economics that are “complexity science skeptics”. I am living proof (but so are many others) you can learn this subject, use it, teach it, charge for it, be informed by it and not know 10+3=13 !

      My question to you is – is the above items what you are talking about ? If so, will you know change your position or stick to your original argument? Knowing what I do and being a world class expert on complexity science, I’m in a catch-22. You will not change your views. Your views are ossified. If I was working “wherever you work” , I would use my bridge techniques to work around you so you could never interfere in the change other would have. You would therefore – with time – be forced to change- or- resign (evolution in action. There you go , another complexity science term!). But here, you will stick to your views. Right?

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