Complexity Thinking

Image of the Cynefin Framework using constraints

Cynefin with Constraints

Image of Complex Adaptive Systems

Complex Adaptive Systems

Image of the Cynefin Framework using scaffolds

Cynefin with Scaffolds

Complexity Thinking

Complexity Thinking is a new form of thinking to aid in understanding uncertainty and complex adaptive systems. It is first essential to understand that not everything is predictable due to the unknown-unknowns that are present in complex environments. Complex environments involve multiple possible states, varying from location to location, and can change conditions rapidly in a short amount of time. It is the understanding of the variety in one’s environment that is essential to complexity thinking. Once the variety in one’s climate has been identified, complexity thinking can be applied.

Complexity thinking involves two primary steps:

Step 1: Understanding the characteristics of complex systems.

Step 2: Have a worldview or perspective that systems, entities, and events are complex adaptive systems.

Operating in complex environments is an exploratory process where the whole is not understood completely. Complexity thinking, in part, aids in being able to focus on what cannot be explained as opposed to focusing on what can be explained. Due to the ambiguity, uncertainty, and unknowns that are present in complexity, specific methods, techniques, and tools have been identified to help navigate these waters.

The methods, techniques, and tools for complexity thinking include:

  • Complex Adaptive Systems
  • The Cynefin® Framework
  • Sensemaking
  • Weak Signal Detection
  • Network Analysis
  • Storytelling and Narratives
  • Empirical Process Control
  • Constraint Management
  • Prototypes
  • The OODA Loop
  • Scrum the Toyota Way.