It has become quite commonplace to adduce the complexity sciences in articles and talks about organisational change, although from the way the ideas are set out it is often difficult to know how the particular ‘complexity perspective’ is adding anything to our current ways of understanding management and change. It can taste like the usual meat and two veg, but perhaps with a bit of mustard on the side of the plate.
So, for example, one frequently comes across the idea that we should ’embrace complexity’ or ‘allow emergence to happen’, or even ‘unleash complexity’ in the organisation. There are a number of two by two grids and frameworks which circulate which purport to help managers identify whether the situation they find themselves in is complex, or merely just complicated. If the former then certain tools and strategies should be used, and if the latter then it requires a different set of tools.
Emergence is often described as a good thing, and in contrast too much control a bad thing. However, ‘just allowing things to emerge’ can also be a bad thing, so a manager needs to achieve ‘the right balance’ between allowing emergence to happen, but not too much. Emergence is another tool in the toolbox for a manager to wield when appropriate.