This blog is devoted to those poor managers who are vexated by the mounting nonsensical talk about “complexity theories” and business.
Complexity (or complexity theory) is a rich and consequently ambiguous term.
It emerged in the past decades mainly as a reference to the increasing propension, in science and technology, to relax the linearity assumptions in dynamical systems in order to get a deeper understanding of their behavior.
This propension was cultivated by early scholars such as Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) or Aleksandr Lyapunov (1857-1918), but was made practical by the use of computers starting in the 1960’s, and pushed by the systemic approach that emerged in 1940-1960 from the works of, e.g., Norbert Wiener and Ludwig von Bertalanffy.
The use of the term complexity today most often refers to domains such as chaos theory, the “emerging behavior” of a system, the behavior of systems when they are far from thermodynamic equilibrium or to the self-organization features that sometimes emerge from these conditions, since all these phenomena ultimately are manifestations of non-linearity.
Other science and technology meanings of complexity that are somehow related to the above are computational complexity (a “static” view of complexity, connected to the dynamical one above via the concept of entropy) and complex networks. (In science, the word complexity is used in many other contexts that are unrelated to non-linearity; one notable example: complex numbers).
Developments in all those fields are rich and fast and are producing effects at the technological, philosophical (Morin, Prigogine, Stangers, Minati, …) and even popular-culture levels.
In this latter field, the use of the term complexity most of the times escapes its original scientific core and tends to assume the colloquial meaning, or a quite confused one anyway.
The pop literature about complexity is mainly aimed at managers: with very few exceptions, it is unreliable and laughable because most its authors fail to grasp the scientific foundations and grossly exaggerate the consequences and the implications of complex systems.
This blog is meant to help the curious reader navigate the maze of the pop complexity literature for management, learn how to defend themselves from it, and make fun of it.