The Complexity Advantage

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9780070014008: The Complexity Advantage

This text provides examples from multinational businesses to show readers concrete and practical methods, based on complexity theory, for solving practical business problems. The book also seeks to demonstrate how discoveries from the new sciences can help businesses and organizations get out of destructive practices, and embrace constructive ones. Traditional business management models have proved unsuccessful, according to the authors, including the well-mentioned "quality" and "empowerment" programmes. The book argues that in a world growing more complex, understanding complexity theory can make the difference. The text recommends specific business evolution methods and principles which use concepts from the new sciences to make business more effective and profitable. Recommendations include: understanding key concepts from the new sciences and from higher mathematics; developing a practical working knowledge of people and businesses as complex adaptive systems; engaging a "few simple rules", simple and elegant, but not simple-minded; and adopting their "14 principles of business evolution", founded on an understanding of self-organizing systems and concepts from the new sciences.

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Review:

Staggered by third-world debt, Citicorp turned to a new management tool to help thwart growing international competition. According to authors Susanne Kelly and Mary Ann Allison, the company adopted "complexity science," which helped Citicorp learn how to evolve more effectively in its business environment. In the mid 1990s, they became a great turnaround story: profits rose again, debt was reduced, and its stock price rocketed. In The Complexity Advantage, Kelly, a Citibank vice president, and Allison, president of a consulting company, describe a complexity-based program that empowers employees and gives them the freedom to organize and manage themselves better. The authors write that this new management technique can help any company thrive in an increasingly chaotic business environment. The authors argue that managers who give company divisions the means to self-organize "will have enthusiastic employee contribution, better information, dramatic increases in both productivity and creativity, lower costs, and the ability to respond rapidly to change in direction." Kelly and Allison go on to describe step by step how the science of complexity can be applied to business. They give four simple rules to follow for successful self-organizing: Trust, learn together, commit deeply, and embrace change. The Complexity Advantage is a useful manual for company leaders interested in complexity science and its applications to business. -Dan Ring

From the Back Cover:

"The science of complexity and biological metaphors are now making their ways into the practical world of business. Whether this transformation is revolutionary remains to be seen. The science is new, and persistent; cautious intelligence will be required for its successful maturation to practical applications. The Complexity Advantage is a serious, sustained and successful effort at just such intelligence. Susanne Kelly and Mary Ann Allison deserve to be taken seriously, read seriously, and thanked."--Stuart A. Kauffman, M.D., Founding General Partner, Bios Group LP, Best-selling author of At Home in the Universe. "Finally, a book that reveals exactly how complexity theory really applies to business in the digital age. Fascinating, insightful, pragmatic and well written. Has helped me rethink the design of a knowledge ecology for Xerox PARC."--John Seely Brown., Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and the Director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). "Shows managers how to put the rich insights of complexity theory to work in everyday business management to improve strategic and financial results. A pleasure to read and will richly reward the reader's investment."--Dr. Fernando Flores, Chairman & CEO, Business Design Associates, Coauthor, Understanding Computers and Cognition. "Provides both a map and the methods to navigate in increasingly complex markets by combining real management experience with scientific theory."--Carolyn Ticknor, Vice President and General Manager, LaserJet Solutions Group, Hewlett-Packard.

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