Book of the Month – Complexity: A Key Idea for Business and Society by Chris Mowles
The Book of the Month is Professor Chris Mowles’ book Complexity: A Key Idea for Business and Society. Chris runs the Doctor of Management (DMan) programme at the University of Hertfordshire in England and was the supervisor of Mikkel Brahm when he did his DMan a while ago. Mikkel is a guest speaker on our inaugural community event in November (see notice).
Mowles’ book interprets insights from the complexity sciences to explore seven types of complexity better to understand the predictable unpredictability of social life. Drawing on the natural and social sciences, it describes how complexity models are helpful but insufficient for our understanding of complex reality. By adding six other types, or characteristics, of complexity, Mowles offers a succinct yet very deep and comprehensive view on complexity as a management foundation.
Mowles’ seven types of complexity includes complex models, complex actions, complex selves, complex communication, complex knowledge, complex authority, and complex ethics.
Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the book develops a complex theory of action more consistent with our experience that our plans inevitably lead to unexpected outcomes, explains why we are both individuals and thoroughly social, and gives an account of why, no matter how clear our message, we may still be misunderstood. The book investigates what forms of knowledge are most helpful for thinking about complex experience, reflects on the way we exercise authority (leadership) and thinks through the ethical implications of trying to co-operate in a complex world.
Taking complexity seriously poses a radical challenge to more orthodox theories of managing and leading, based as they are on assumptions of predictability, control and universality. Mowles argues that management is an improvisational practice which takes place in groups in a particular context at a particular time. Managers can influence but never control an uncontrollable world. To become more skilful in complex group dynamics involves taking into account multiple points of view and acknowledging not knowing, ambivalence and doubt.
The book is dedicated to Ralph Stacey, who sadly passed away recently. Stacey was one of the leading thinkers in complexity science and the author of several important books in the field.
This book will be of interest to those interested in how taking complexity seriously can influence the functioning of businesses and organizations and how they manage and lead. This, of course, means that the book is highly relevant for all real enterprise architects, and we promise you that it will be much more valuable to you than the latest book about whatever technology fad the IT people is fuzzing and buzzing about.