Can we apply ideas from complexity theory to organisations and corporations, to make them more flexible and agile in our rapidly changing world? McMaster attempts to show how we can.
I came to this book really wanting to learn from it. In particular, I wanted to see if it would give me information that I could apply to doing scientific research, specifically, research into complexity, in a typically self-referential way. After all, if we really believe this complexity stuff, we should be using it ourselves, shouldn't we?
Despite my hopes, hopes that were buoyed up by the preface describing time spent at the Santa Fe Institute, I was left disappointed. In fact, I gave up at the end of Chapter 6, slightly less than halfway through. My problem is that there is very little concrete in here. The prose is high level, and doesn't provide me with anything to ground it in. Let's take some specific examples. Here's a paragraph from the chapter on "Leadership".
Now, that would be okay if it were the introductory paragraph, leading on to specifics. But every paragraph is at this level of abstraction.
Well, okay, not every paragraph. There are a few scattered boxed anecdotes, showing how these things happen in reality. Here's one, from the same section:
So ... what? If this is the specific example, where are the details? What specifically was the transformation that the manager committed himself to? What specifically went on in the educational and development sessions? What specific actions did the self-selected group take? Given the complete transformation, what was the final situation? Etc, etc. In fact, the whole tone of this example is so bland, it remined me irresistably of that style of content-free marketing-speak so brilliantly parodied in the chicken joke.
There is just nothing here for me to get my teeth into. In order to reason by analogy, to take something from one domain and apply it in another, I need details of the analogous domain. Nothing for me here (at least, not up to chapter 6). I need to keep looking.