Posts Tagged ‘Complexity’

Making Money Without Providing Value

What if you could make money by selling people securities, or equivalent, that have no inherent value, but people think will eventually be worth substantially more than they paid you for them?  You can potentially make money from an endeavor that provides no value to the economy or society.  You can make money off of […]

Games for Life

I have always enjoyed playing cards.  When growing up, card games were frequent in my family and quite serious in the sense that you did not joke around.  You seriously and studiously did your best to win.  I play cards every day, now online.  In this post, I consider how card games can help us […]

Intuitions That Mislead Us

One of my recent readings has been the late Hans Rosling’s Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. (Flatiron Books, 2018).  It is a fascinating read, loaded with valuable insights. Hans Rosling asked chimpanzees to answer 13 multiple-choice questions about the state of the world.  […]

The Wild West of Commodity Trading

I recently read Javier Blas and Jack Farchy’s The World for Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources (Oxford University Press, 2021).  This fascinating book reads like a novel, almost a page turner.  What will the traders do next? They chronicle the history of commodity traders of oil, grain, metals, and […]

On Being Colonized

During the Era of Colonialism (late 1400s to the mid- to late 1900s), European powers colonized most of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania, the Middle East and the Arctic, excluding Antarctica.  This typically involved oppression and exploitation of indigenous ethnic and racial groups inside the geographical area colonized.  This oppression and exploitation often is […]

Humans as Apex Predators

Simon Winchester’s latest book, Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World (Harper, 2021), caused me to think about humans’ roles in the overall ecosystem. Are we apex predators, meaning that we regularly eat many other species but no other species regularly eats us? The contrast that interests me is not apex versus […]

An Agenda for Change

What needs to change to transform our society in the ways needed to achieve new levels of equality, performance, and value creation?  I have nine suggestions in two broad areas.  In general, we need to move from status quo practices to best practices as shown in the table below.   Function Best Practices Status Quo […]

Frustrations With Change

There are several forces currently driving change in our society: Pandemic impacts that have completely upset the status quo Economic impacts of the pandemic that have left many in dire straights Disproportionate effects of economic, educational and social inequities These forces have led to an overwhelmed healthcare system, enormous unemployment, and intense frustration on the […]

A Wicked Problem

Wicked problems defy formulation and resolution.  They involve conflicting values, concerns, and perceptions that lead to conflicts, strong positions, and perhaps even hatred of the “others” who have opposing views. We are faced with roughly 50% of the country being in fundamental conflict with the other 50% of the country.  Actually, Biden-Harris won 51.3% of […]

Knowing and Being

This book provides a great tour of philosophy, primarily German, in the early decades of the 20th century. Eilenberger, W. (2018). Time of the Magicians. Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger and the Decade that Reinvented Philosophy. New York: Penguin. Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859), Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (1905), and Freud’s Psychoanalysis (1917) had upset […]

Understanding and Managing Complexity

If you think the complexity of the current situation – pandemic, global warming, and race relations – is overwhelming, I have a suggestion for coping with the complexity.  The just published issue of The Bridge (https://www.nae.edu/Bridge.aspx) provides a wonderfully broad and intriguing set of perspectives of how complexity is manifested throughout our society.  We cannot […]

Problem Solving in Complex Adaptive Systems

It is important to distinguish between understanding complex problems and solving them. Solving problems in complex adaptive systems can be quite difficult and often intractable. Climate change, global warming and their consequences provide a compelling example. The science seems clear in terms of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. The relationship […]

Progress at the Speed of Trust

Stephen Covey originated this idea in his book The Speed of Trust (Free Press, 2006).  Progress is limited by the extent to which key stakeholders trust in the endeavor of interest and support its pursuit. There are multiple levels of trust.  At one level, we are concerned that leaders and other authorities will not mislead […]

Transforming Anger

It is so very easy to get angry about the current situation in the US.  Pandemic, recession, hurricanes, flooding, fires, earthquakes, protests about racial injustice, attempts to pack the Supreme Court and undermine elections are all woven together over the past six months.  It is almost a perfect storm of calamities. My anger is not […]

A Reformed Optimist

“Everything will work out in the end and, if it doesn’t, it is not the end.” This was a theme in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) but attributed to Paul Coelho and John Lennon much earlier. I am an inveterate optimist, but I am reconsidering my inclinations.  Look how we have handled […]

Death by Complexity

Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press, 1988) presaged Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking Press, 2004).  Both books provide vivid explanations of how societies fail and why. Societies create mechanisms to deal with new challenges.  Walls are built to thwart Mongol hoards.  Regulations are created to […]

Disruptive Innovation in the Public Sector

How can innovation be cultivated in the public sector?  Consider defense, education, and healthcare.  These three primarily public sector systems are ripe for disruption and innovation. Enormous improvements of services and decreased costs are undoubtedly achievable. The key question is how to disrupt the status quo. Let’s first consider how a direct approach might work, […]

A Real Deal

We have in the US over 400 years of injustice in our country. Native Americans, African-Americans, and more recent immigrants have all been abused. We have taken advantage of them for the benefits of mainstream Americans at the time. What was this mainstream?  Initially it was immigrants to Massachusetts and Virginia. Over time, we added […]

The Nature of Evidence

Show Me the Evidence was a popular book by Ron Haskins and Greg Margolis published by Brookings in 2014. The central idea was that economic and social policy should be based on credible data rather than just opinion and advocacy. This seems reasonable, although ideology has of late disrupted these intentions. Can this idea be […]

A Complex Society

Recent challenges suggest that the complexity of society in the US has become increasingly difficult to understand and manage.  We seem to have great trouble agreeing on anything.  Consequently, we do not act to quickly understand what is happening and competently develop and execute compelling courses of action.  Let’s explore the sources of the impasse. […]

Mental Health

I have lately been delving into substance abuse, suicide, and mental health in general. This past weekend, I used an AI-based platform to digest 250 journal articles on these topics.  The resulting panorama of mental health is really astounding. I have earlier focused on hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and, most recently, cancer. My sense is […]

Think Differently, Play Together

Over the past couple of decades, I have invested my energies in understanding complex enterprises in terms of the multiple levels of phenomena that underlie corporations, cities, countries, and even climate.  These levels include people, processes, organizations, and society, all of which both enable and constrain each other.  Ignoring any of these levels risks devising […]

Baptizing Cats

A couple of ideas intersected this week.  First, a piece I was reading suggested that the endeavor they were elaborating was “As difficult as baptizing a cat.”  Depending on how you have related with cats in the past, this statement evokes an immediate sense of what the baptism experience would be like.  I am on […]

Washington Drama

I moved to Washington, DC a bit over four months ago.  I have long liked the city, traveling here at least once a month for business over almost four decades. During this transition, I started watching TV shows associated with the White House.  I have been binge watching The West Wing – just into the […]

Complexity: Absolute or Relative?

I spent the last few days in Santa Fe, absorbed in discussions of complexity, with particular emphasis on healthcare delivery.  I have delved into this topic for quite some time. Three decades ago, we published our studies on the complexity of troubleshooting – figuring out the source of unfortunate symptoms, e.g., why your car won’t […]

Complexity Overload

How many user names and passwords do you have? Do you need passwords with exactly six or eight or ten characters including as least one numeric character and one non-alphabetic or non-numeric character? How often are you required to change them for security reasons?   Do you have a list, tucked away physically or electronically that […]