One of the common social media comments post a Cognitive Edge course (especially when I run it) is that people'r brains hurt; it's normally a compliment. As I said yesterday on the final day of this week's London programme the issue is to think differently, then its all pretty simple. This is generally true of any paradigm shift in the history of ideas. If you go back to the enlightenment you will find that the people who have made the mental shift to science, to the use of observation and derivation of rules, actually find it all fairly easy and self-evident. However those trained in the old ways of thinking, well their brains hurt.
Now complexity theory is if anything a more radical shift in our understanding and it can hurt those accustomed to the case based approach to management, repeating recipes derived from past practice. Or worse having one successful project then generalising it into a universal method, something that the Agile community seems especially prone to. The essence is to understand that the basic ideas are very simple, to use the key phrase from The Children's Party Story (I must remake that video, it's a constant reminder of the 35kg I no longer possess) We manage the emergence of beneficial coherence within attractors, within boundaries. If you want the essence then it falls into three groups of three types of theory informed action:
In its essence:
What we should avoid:
Then the three basic heuristics of complexity management:
Nothing too hard about any of that, but it's a new way of thinking and acting so it can appear hard. If course some people respond simplistically the two most common being:
There are probably more but those are the most frequent. Interesting both seem designed to make respondents comfortable rather than to challenge their thinking. A great quote from T S Eliot applies here:
Nothing pleases people more than to go on thinking what they have always thought, and at the same time imagine that they are thinking something new and daring: it combines the advantage of security and the delight of adventure.
I can think of a few people who claim to be working with complexity to whom that applies. So its simple but don't be simplistic.
So why the opening picture? Well I used the London bikes for the first time this week and fell in love with them. Although riding from Covent Garden to Earls Court late at night qualifies as an extreme sport. However it took a couple of rides for me to realise that (i) was not my bespoke bike with ultra thin tyres and a campag group set and (ii) I should not attempt rapid progress when I have a meeting to go to without the opportunity for a shower. Once I got that then my journeys this week across London were faster, and all together more enjoyable.
Think anew, act anew; simple but not simplistic. Then it hurts less ….