There is a growing popular literature on chaos and complexity authored by scientists of high reputation writing about research fields in which they are themselves active. There is also a burgeoning literature which draws on this work to address management concerns and practices, but whose authors are experienced in management and management education rather than in the substantive scientific fields whose findings they report and interpret. I shall refer to this arena as ‘management complexity’. There is some evidence of managerial take-up of ‘complexity’ as a framework for informing organisational practice. This is still at an early stage, and take-up may or may not lead to take-off. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to a discussion of the validity and significance of these ideas for the management of organisations. The type of questions which I shall at least be raising are: what failings in current management theory or practice are claimed to be corrected? how novel are the management prescriptions which are derived from complexity theory? how plausible? does complexity theory provide scientific authority for these prescriptions? I will first provide the briefest of overviews of the subject matter of chaos and complexity theory, followed by an outline of the ways in which they have been applied to the field of management. I will then move to an exploration of the substantive conclusions for management drawn from this theory, before examining the validity of basing such conclusions on scientific findings from a remote disciplinary area.
Research Professor. Director at Learning Change Project – Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, sustainability, thinkers, ++
Giorgio Bertini does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from these papers, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
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