Shifting Paradigms; Complex Adaptive Systems & Management

9 February 2011, 5.30 PM - 9 February 2011, 5.30 PM

Pugsley Lecture Theatre, Queens Building. Wine and nibbles to follow.

The Systems Centre is delighted to present the second public lecture in the Blockley Lectures in Systems -  

Shifting paradigms; complex adaptive systems & management

by Professor Dave Snowden


The language of management for the past few decades has been dominated by the  language of engineering.  From Re-engineering the Corporation to the more recent use of Six Sigma the assumption has been that we can plan for the future in much the same way as we design a bridge.  The focus has been on strategic purpose with clearly articulated business goals and organisational values.  Systems thinking (or more accurately systems dynamics) dominates the management agenda.

However, with increasing levels of uncertainty the engineering or systems paradigm is being challenged by approaches which draw on the natural sciences, in particular complex adaptive systems theory coupled with insights into human decision making from the cognitive sciences.  In parallel the universe of social computing with its emergent, unpredictable structures is challenging convention wisdom in both management and design.

This lecture will be based on the authors award winning cover article on the Harvard Business Review A Leaders Guide to Decision Making.  It will introduce the basic principles of complex adaptive systems theory together with the pattern basis of human intelligence (we are not, and never have been rational decision makers).  It will examine new approaches to risk that focus on resilience rather than robustness, allowing a degree a failure but focusing on early detection and fast recovery.

It will look at the shift in systems from applications to architectures, from planning towards an idealised future state to managing the evolutionary potential of the present.

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