September 1, 2011

The world is more complex than it used to be…?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 9:44 pm
Tags: ,

Pretty eye-catching tweet, don’t you think? I went for it and clicked through to the associated post on the HBR blog. Now I don’t want to get into the mind-boggling nitty-gritty of complexity theory, partly because it is very well covered by real experts elsewhere; and partly because the more one finds out about it, the more depressing and terrifying it all seems – to me at least.

However, I do want to pick up on the first paragraph of the post:

It’s not you — the world has become more complex.

Consider 1980. There was no such thing as a personal computer. The Internet and broadband connections to it were more than a decade away. You used film to take pictures, got them developed in a photo shop, and mailed copies to relatives if you wanted to share them. Roughly half of the 4.4 billion people on Earth were either so poor that they were cut off from the rest of humanity, or lived in regimes so repressive that no outside communication was possible. AT&T was the only telephone operator in the United States; telephony was just one of many high-impact industries that were highly regulated and protected from competition.

What struck me from reading this was that it is possible to reframe that interpretation of the world three decades ago. With limited digitisation of content, getting and sharing stuff was far more expensive and laborious. Take the example given of photos: you need film, to get them developed and then to send them in the post to others to share your happy memories. In some senses, life has got less complicated, whilst increased communications has meant greater transparency and often openess.

Though it is very true the increased interdependence of systems and things, and lack of control this causes, does bring major challenges, the coach in me wanted to quickly take the opportunity to propose another way of looking at a state of affairs.

What else can we re-view?


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