complexity theory

You are here


Complexity theory enables understanding the realities of the evolutionary, dynamic, and complex nature of organizations, businesses, and economics. This understanding is necessary to develop an evolving organization capable of producing and sustaining a competitive advantage. Understanding complexity means it is explainable, not that complex systems are predictable, whether unpredictable due to the complexity itself or that the system is truly indeterminate.

Chaos theory, systems theory, and complexity --
Chaotic systems are deterministic. Complexity theory is about systems that can learn, like business organizations. Thus the term 'complex adaptive system' describes organizations. Stacey (2000, pp 209 - 210) posits the notion that systems thinking is an inadequate 'source domain' for understanding business organizations and prefers to tap directly into complexity as the source for analogy - thinking of organizations as complex responsive processes instead of complex adaptive systems.

There does not appear to be any standard for how systems, chaos, and complexity theory fit together. Complexity theory can be thought to fit within the umbrella of general systems theory, but departs from systems thinking and chaos theory in the belief that many complex systems, including social systems, such as business organizations and economic systems, are non-deterministic.

Complexity theory certainly does apply to areas of science and study where reductionism has fallen short and may rightfully push thinking towards principles and processes and away from structures and seeking deterministic understandings that are at best impractical and at worst impossible to find. With complex systems (regardless of how 'complexity' is specifically defined) plus dynamism, the 'half-life' of a deterministic explanation would be of limited value, even if it could be found, as it would only last for a brief span of time.