Making a complex world complicated?
Although the difference is quite straightforward when you think about it, we often tend to mix them up with a huge impact on business.
Let me use the metaphor used by Zobrist to explain the difference:
An airplane is a complicated system. There are millions of parts that need to work together seamlessly. But everything can be mapped out: if you change one part, you should be able to predict all the consequences.
A bowl of spaghetti is a complex system. Even though it has just a few dozen “parts”, it is virtually impossible to predict what will happen when you pull at the end of a strand of spaghetti that sticks out of the bowl.
Now what is the impact on business you say?
A lot of businesses are organized to cope with complicated systems. When we talk about complicated systems, we talk about ‘predict & control’. Organizations that are build to predict the future, to create an upfront strategy, to allocate budgets based on this strategy & to follow up KPI’s and the budget by committees and controllers on the road to the predefined goal.
Nothing wrong with that if you are indeed working in a complicated system.
Everything changes when you are operating in a complex system, with lot’s of uncertainty in the ecosphere and within your company. Predict & control proves to be a really bad way of acting in these systems. Evidence points towards a more ‘sense & respond’ way of working in these systems.
Which system do you think your business is really in? And how is your business adapted to it??