During the past forty years, behavioral economics and complexity theory
have emerged in helping to explain why organizations and individuals act
the way they do. Behavioral economics has become very main stream because
of a number of best selling authors book production including, Richard
H. Thaler, Daniel Kahneman, Dan Ariely, Charles Duhigg, Jonah Berger,
Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner and Robert B. Cialdini. On the other
hand complexity theory or the study of complex systems continues to remain
the purview of a small number of scientists and the Santa Fe Institute (SFI).
Interestingly, Margaret Wheatley in 1992 wrote the book, Leadership and
the NEW SCIENCE, Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe
and followed that in 1999 with the book, Leadership and the New Science,
Discovering Order in a Chaotic World which connected complexity theory
and organizational leadership. The study of complexity science is a work
in progress and still lacks a single definition by the scientific community.
There is a growing number of books and articles about complexity, but
they are not those you would find on the New York Times Best Seller’s
List. Intertwined in the study of complexity are a number of other scientific
fields including, dynamical systems theory, chaos theory, quantum physics
and thermodynamics to name just a few. With a seemingly growing number
of unexpected events around the world like, the 2008 global financial
crisis, the 2016 referendum vote resulting in the United Kingdom’s
withdrawal from the European Union and the 2016 United States presidential
election, more interest is being focused on Complexity Science as possible
method for predicting these types of occurrences. To avoid any further
brain cramping, let’s proceed on the path of what is a complex system.
In our every day living, we encounter many things that are complicated.
Complex systems are different. Complexity scientists have identified the
following characteristics of complex systems:
• The system contains a collection of many interacting objects or
• These objects’ behavior is affected by memory or “feedback.”
• The objects can adapt their strategies according to their history.
• The system is typically “open.”
• The system appears to be “alive.”
• The system exhibits emergent phenomena which are generally surprising,
and may be extreme.
• The emergent phenomena typically arise in the absence of any sort
of “invisible hand” or central controller.
• The system shows a complicated mix of ordered and disordered behavior.
Source: Simply Complexity, A Clear Guide to Complexity Theory, by Neil Johnson
Billions and billions of dollars are spent every year by organizational
leadership to find solutions to organizational challenges. Simultaneously,
hundreds of books are written every year espousing solutions to these
same organizational challenges. Despite all of these efforts, organizations
and the people in these organizations continue to struggle. There is no
benefit to be gained by retracing how and why organizations are structured,
led and managed the way they are today. There have been numerous books
chronicling companies thought to be “excellent” only to find
out later when things changed in some cases the companies no longer existed
and in other cases became only shadows of themselves. Then more books
were written explaining why the previous books omitted some new finding
that would now account for companies becoming excellent. With these fleeting
success stories, the only real certainty was continued success was highly
As scientists have been researching areas like the human immune system,
adaptive nature of living organisms, weather and climate change, artificial
intelligence, genome research and a host of other projects that have presented
questions not answerable with the scientific methods of Newton and others.
In a relative short period of time, we have witnessed new companies in
old industries use new approaches to significantly disrupt those industries.
Southwest Airlines, Toyota, Walmart, Apple are a few of the best known stories.
So what you might ask? What if the present organizational model of healthcare
delivery system is obsolete and the only reason it continues to exist
are rigid regulations and archaic business structures? What if the healthcare
delivery system is a Complex System? What will you do in the event the
System begins to exhibit “extreme emergent phenomena” and
“disordered behavior?” Will you recognize when the System
is attempting to be adaptive? How will you respond? Will you welcome the
chaos or quickly implement more control? Will you be aware of emerging
organizations seeking to fill the needs of the “interacting agents?”
The case studies and business books are filled with the post-mortem of
many former U.S. blue ribbon companies that no longer exist. Capitalism
and nature in their purest forms are very harsh teachers. On this website,
we are going to begin monitoring the Complex System broadly described
as the U.S. healthcare industry. Our objectives are to highlight the attributes
of the Complex System, identify emergent phenomena, identify the feedback
the System is responding to and attempt to predict when the System will
enter in to disorder.