Chaos and complexity science is much more than math or equations. Indeed, complexity has been applied to everything from the stock market to ecological systems to the neurons that create our sense of consciousness of the world!

Why is this important? Because traditional management approaches may not be relevant in the changing dynamic context of today's world. Complexity is real life science. It takes the ideas we already know exist and operate, and creates a framework to help us better understand, and create new solutions and approaches.

How can complexity be used as a way of innovation? Well, let's take the example of the Centre for Excellence in Women's Health at Harvard Medical School.

Women's health itself arose from a complex organizational evolution. For more information on this, click on the link to read a history of how this came about, in WHY WOMEN AND COMPLEXITY.

In Edgeware: Lessons From Complexity Science for Health Care Leaders, the Zimmerman, Lindberg and Plsek propose Nine Emerging and Connected Organizational and Leadership Principles of management that are consistent with an understanding of organizations as CASs. I found these useful for illustrating clearly how complexity can serve as a management science, and include them here for further exploration.


The Nine Principles:

  • View your system through the lens of complexity.
  • Build a good-enough vision
  • When life is far from certain, lead with clockware and swarmware in tandem
  • Tune your place to the edge
  • Uncover and work with paradox and tension
  • Go for multiple actions at the fringes, let direction arise
  • Listen to the shadow system
  • Grow complex systems by chunking
  • Mix cooperation with competition


For more information on complexity as an organizational science, see

1) EDGEWARE by Brenda Zimmerman, Curt Lindberg, Paul Plsek. (1998). Dallas, TX: VHA Inc.

2) COMPLEXITY AND CREATIVITY IN ORGANIZATIONS by Ralph D. Stacey (1996). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

3) LEADERSHIP AND THE NEW SCIENCE by Margaret J. Wheatley (1999). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

4) "The Trillion-Dollar Vision of Dee Hock" by M.Mitchell Waldrop. Fast Company Magazine Oct-Nov 96, pp. 75-86.

5) PLEXUS INSITUTE event calendar www.plexusinstitute.org