New York Times article by Thomas Homer-Dixon and Johan Rockström — Today’s mess is best understood as a global polycrisis—a term which implies that humanity is dealing with a complex knot of seemingly distinct but actually deeply entangled crises.
This video explains the critical distinction between risk and uncertainty. Decision-makers often navigate their options by assessing risk—by plotting the probabilities, costs, and benefits of different outcomes and deciding accordingly. But the world is increasingly characterized by situations in which the range of possible outcomes and their probabilities are virtually impossible to estimate. This video discusses the situations in which traditional risk management approaches will and will not work.
This video explains why contemporary systemic conditions generate such “wicked” problems and explores the ways in which organizations can operate either effectively or poorly in such circumstances. Several recurring patterns of feedback within and between organizations often undermine their endeavours, and require much more systemic approaches to management.
This video provides a clear introduction to the concepts of adaptation and resilience in the context of organizations. It focuses specifically on panarchy theory and the adaptive cycle, which help explain the ways in which organizations develop, gain and lose resilience, and undergo bouts of creative destruction. The video concludes by exploring strategies by which managers can foster resilience in their organizations and activities.
This video examines the role of technology in complex systems. Technologies are procedures that harness natural phenomena—that is, transform matter, energy, and information—to fulfill human purposes. They are an obvious source of societal innovation, yet they can also get “locked-in” to sub-optimal patterns, just like institutions do. This video investigates the advantages and disadvantages of social media, platform technologies, and other inventions as potential “game-changers” in economy and society.
This video examines the role of institutions in complex systems. Institutions are “sticky”—once they are established, they tend to get “locked-in” over long periods of time during which they experience only small, incremental change (path dependence). But these periods of stability are occasionally punctuated by “critical junctures”—moments of contingency in which old rules break down and a range of new possibilities open up.
This video explores the concept of worldviews – belief systems that help us to understand the way the world works, how the world ought to be, and our particular place, or identity, in the world. Worldviews are at the root of many social conflicts – yet many systems thinkers argue that worldview shifts represent the most profound source of transformation in social systems.
This video introduces the Worldview, Institutions, and Technologies (WIT) framework. WIT analysis highlights different dimensions of social complexity and will help you to understand sources of persistence and change in social systems. Worldviews, institutions, and technologies tend to reinforce one another, so that effective leadership requires action on all three fronts.