Thirty nine (i)

Complexity

Eli took us through the meaning of complexity.

I know you don’t need me to revisit the general aspects of complexity. I will however leave in the bit where I quoted Dom just to double underline how important I think this is.

Eli pointed out that most things mankind is interested in are complex – in other words they exhibit the characteristics of complexity – and yet time and time again people don’t understand that. Instead, they develop superstitions or myths or ‘rules’ or stories to help come to terms with the phenomena they witness, indeed anything it seems but address complexity for what it is.

Saket reminded us of a question he’d posed a while ago now. The ‘market’ is the name we give to individual human agents in the aggregate, so what do we want each of those humans to do exactly? And how might these actions combine in the aggregate? It’s this aggregation that’s critical to the question of complexity.

Michelle reminded us of another of Saket’s previous questions, paraphrasing and putting it into the context here. Why are the frequency and duration of our plans linked to the time it takes our planet to complete a particular cycle around the Sun? What’s 365 days got to do with our business exactly?

If complexity implies we should expect the unexpected, and if uncertainty increases the further ahead we look, what makes us think planning in December for the following October is a good idea? John concurred and pointed out that IT had moved to a faster cycle some years back, typically an eight or twelve week drumbeat, in an approach that’s become known as “agile”. Why then can’t we have “agile marketing” for example?

William asked if Saket was advocating short-termism, to which Saket replied that it wasn’t a case of preferring short- or long-termism, but the facility to take complexity into account. A long-term vision remains as critical to business success as ever, but flexibility (finding a new course to execute the strategy; operational) and agility (recognizing when the strategy needs adaption; strategic) are business critical too.

The group appeared to be split roughly in half, with those who said they now understand complexity and those who said they could do with some more information.

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