I've been following a recent twitter spat between Dave Snowden (Cynefin) and Niels Plaeging (BetaCodex) with a rising sense of alarm and disappointment. They are both experts in the field of complexity science which chiefly occupies itself with trying to explain why in business, management is so hard and why things always go wrong - or at least don't go as well as planned.
Complexity science is increasingly popular in management theory especially around IT and software projects. In a similar way that Systems Thinking is something of a management philosophy, neither of these ideas really tell you what to do next - only that things are complex and connected and it's tough.
Can you really map complexity and make meaningful judgements? And this, I believe, is the core of the argument. The whole affair feels a bit absurd and childish to the point they are blocking each other on twitter and then popping up again from different accounts. It sounds to me like a Douglas Adams plot point - complexity scientists falling out. How would he describe this? Rather than attempt to write it myself, I asked ChatGPT how DNA might describe it. I won't reproduce the whole text, but it did a good job on the whole and summarised it like this:
Like a tangled knot in the fabric of existence, the futility of this professional argument served as a reminder that even the most brilliant minds can sometimes get lost in the labyrinth of their own ideas. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, the pointlessness of this debate was a gentle nudge from the universe, urging us to embrace the beautiful chaos of existence, for it is in that chaos that true meaning lies.
I'm not sure Douglas Adams would have said something so direct, but I like the summary. Trust your experts, but don't let your experts get carried away with themselves.
Enjoy your Sunday.
Published on May 17, 2023
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