Bev’s Early Experiences with Complexity

March 8, 2014 by  


I wish I’d kept a diary of my love affair with complexity.

I can’t honestly remember when I was first exposed to it in some formal way. It was probably 10 years ago and I do remember that it blew me away. I remember having a powerful feeling that I had uncovered something important, something that would begin to tie a lot of loose ends together, something that would help me understand a lot of things that didn’t seem to fit anywhere, if that makes any sense.

A Theory of Everything

I remember too, many years before that, reading a short and powerful essay that was called A Theory of Everything. It wasn’t a scientific paper about physics and the universe, and I don’t even remember what it was, but I do remember it having an impact on me, and I remember keeping it for a long time. I wish I could find that essay because it started me thinking about complexity, even though I didn’t have any vocabulary or mental models to relate to at that time.

Today I think about complexity and complex systems a lot.

I see them everywhere, in nature when I walk in the forest or on the beach, and when I tend my gardens, and track the weather forecast. I see them in the fluctuations in our investment funds as they adapt to global events (right now its Russia and it’s potential invasion of the unstable Ukraine). I see them in the relationships among the members of my big family, and my large professional networks. I see them in the emergence of characteristics in my 7 grandchildren and how those characteristics reflect perfectly the ways of their parents and how they are brought up (does anyone use that expression anymore??), always intertwined with the very different characteristics they each were born with.

As a health professional in a complex network of systems, I see leaders who have begun to adapt to the complexities, ambiguities and paradoxes that are now the norm in health care. It is ever more apparent that the emerging field of complexity science offers important strategies for leading in chaotic, complex healthcare environments.

An important question is: Are we adapting our ways of thinking and being and doing quickly enough and are we finding ways and means to talk to each other (do we even have the vocabulary?!) about what we are seeing and thinking and proposing? Sometimes I think yes, we are and sometimes NOT!


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