Woven together

Etymologically, the term ‘complexity’ means braiding or binding opposites (two warriors or two lovers entwined). Today, complexity refers to a broad spectrum of phenomena and is approached from various disciplines, although there is no agreed definition of it.

Let’s take a step back and gather momentum with the outlines of two complementary approaches: the cultural and the scientific.

For Edgar Morin, “hyper-specialisation keeps us from seeing the global (which it fragments) and the essential (which it dissolves).

The essential thing we are losing in repeated partitioning is complexity; that which was woven together, and which actually makes up reality.

And what Morin places in the field of knowledge is equally valid in our daily individual and collective experience. You just need to replace hyper-specialisation with hyper-fragmentation of information, hyper-dispersion of impulses or similar.

On the other hand, Melanie Mitchell (Introduction to Complexity MOOC), gives us the keys to understanding complex systems. Their properties:

  • Simple components or agents
  • Nonlinear interactions between them
  • Lack of central control
  • Emerging behaviours

And the contrast between the problems posed by complexity (here Organised Complexity) with other environments which we are more used to dealing with:

Few variables

Lots of variables

Little interaction between them

Moderate number of variables

Strong (nonlinear) interaction between them


Science and culture to manage organised complexity and deal effectively with the problems it poses.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Antoni 16 September, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    There are endless resources to learn more about complexity and how to manage it, but I just read one that is short, simple and has references to other sources. Highly recommended. You can find if at http://blog.kumu.io/what-is-complexity/
    Kumu is one of these tools that anticipates the fourth wave (http://www.anskypapers.com/approaching-the-fourth-wave/)

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