# Tag: Complexity Theory

## The Pilgrimage

Finding Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage, in the local Oxfam shop, I bought it thinking I had already read it. I hadn’t. It’s marvelous; and packed full of wisdom that makes this a reference book to keep on your shelf.

## True path to wisdom

One of the nuggets I thought would come up again is the advice Coelho is given by his guide who was called Petrus in the book.

“The true path to wisdom can be identified by three things,” said Petrus. “First, it must involve agape, and I’ll tell you more about this later; second, it has to have practical application in your life.  Otherwise, wisdom becomes a useless thing and deteriorates like a sword that is never used. “

“And finally, it has to be a path that can be followed by anyone.  Like the road you are walking now, the Road to Santiago.”

## Writing to remember

I don’t have a good verbal memory so I like to write about things and link them to similar ideas.  That way, I’ll be able to recall the idea whenever I want to.  My method satisfies step 2, I suppose!  Blogging is practical.

Blogging also helps with step 3.  Anyone with a computer and internet connection and some literacy or a camera can blog.  About half the world, I suppose.  It’s not a protected activity, anyway.

But agape?  I write for a better understanding.  Yes, that is agape.  And I write to share. Not always well, but I try to be intelligible.

I worry though that I will reduce the ideas of Paolo Coelho to something prosaic and unworthy.  For what it is worth, these are two ideas from other domains that I immediately wanted to compare with Paolo Coelho’s ideas about the path to wisdom.

## Happiness and chaos/complexity theory

Losada modeled happiness in a butterfly shaped space.   Contrary to views presented in the popular press, happiness isn’t  a consistently cheery mood.  It is appropriate reaction to events. We feel sad at sad times and happy at happy times but get stuck nowhere.

### Ratio of positive to negative events

Losada uses three variables to model the space.  The ratio of positive to negative in our environment must range from 3:1 to 11:1.  3:1 is a lot.  For every jarring event, we need three good ones to recover.  5:1 is optimal.  Sometimes we struggle to maintain that ratio and the struggle captures our focus.  In these distressing times, we tend to exaggerate the bad by excluding what is good.  The good gets buried and we are in danger of slipping so far down the ratio we might never recover our composure.  Simply, we have to make a special effort to celebrate what is good in the situation to compensate our tendency to repeat the bad over and over again like a broken gramophone, presumably in the fear that if we don’t, it will bite us.  I take that to be agape.  The search for the good.

### Other vs self

The second variable that Losada used was discussion of the outside world.  When we balance discussion of the world outside our immediate circle and the needs of our circle almost our mood swings throughout the spectrum.  We are less likely to see everything as all good or all bad.

To give you an example, I sometimes cheer myself up with an elaborate day dream of what I am going to do.  When I go out into the world, I am living my dream.  But people around me don’t see me that way.  It’s like meeting a bucket of cold water!  My immediate reaction is to feel small.  A better reaction is to build up the dream to include them too.  When my dream is not situated in the harsh realities of the world, other people will stop me, and more importantly my own sense of shock will stop myself.  And then I am unhappy because nothing works!!

The third variable that Losada used is a balance of inquiry and advocacy.  At first sight, this is not the same as the criteria of universality, inclusion and humility that Coelho espouses, but when I put it like that, you possibly see the similarity.

Any way, I was struck by the similarity of ideas coming from different traditions and had to stop to test how far the ideas ran in parallel.

## Social media

The second notion that struck me is that social media is successful because it also follows these principles.

Social media is a courteous world.   Sure it has its spammers and robots and flamers but the general ethos is to be helpful.    We simply get more done by celebrating what we can do together.

Social media is a practical world.  I watch my rankings not out of vanity, though of course there is an element of vanity too.  I watch my ranking and Google Analytics to help me find people who share my interests.   “5 best way” articles are very popular and that is partly a search for practicality ~ but they belong in the point below.  I write on blogs because they keep me grounded in reality (or at least more so than if I didn’t).

Social media is an inclusive world.  Through teaching, I know that a major difference between Gen Y and earlier generations is that digital natives test information in their own lives and absorb it or not when they find it useful.  When we can communicate useful  (not popular)  information, we see the response.  Of course, popular also wins.   Of course, tawdry also wins.  Not everything useful is deep or good.

I know we can take the analogy too far and the poetic description is far better than the stilted prose of a former academic.  I just wanted to test whether the three criteria ~ agape, practicality and openness ~ worked in other areas of my life.

Do they work for you?

## Poiesis

I learned something very interesting just now.  The Greek word for poetry is poiesis – ‘making’.

That wouldn’t have been too dramatic a discovery but management theorists are fond of the word auto-poesis.

## Auto-poiesis

Autopoiesis literally means “auto (self)-creation” (from the Greek: auto – αυτό for self- and poiesis – ποίησις for creation or production), and expresses a fundamental dialectic between structure and function.

We like this word in management because it expresses the constant interplay between our relationships with the world and ourselves.

## Autopoiesis vs allopiesis

An autopoietic system is to be contrasted with an allopoietic system, such as a car factory, which uses raw materials (components) to generate a car (an organized structure) which is something other than itself (the factory).

## Management theory in the 21st century

Much of the management theory I grew up with was about allopoietic systems.  How do we turn inputs into something that we will send out or away?  X and Y.

Indeed, even allowing for the transformation of X into Y is somewhat of a novelty for a psychologist.  To have a feedback loop from Y to X is so challenging that the loop mysteriously disappears from some text books!

When we think of ourselves as autopoietic, we allow that “if organization of a thing changes, the thing changes.”  Here we are saying that every time a bolt and a washer, or indeed anything enters a factory, or a car leaves a factory, the factory itself has changed.

We are less concerned with what goes in and what goes out and more concerned with way the factory reinvents itself minute-by-minute.

## An example of an autopoietic system

It’s a bit giddy-making when we switch from one idea to the other.

### For the research minded

It is easier for research, stats-minded people to see the idea when they think of Losada’s work on the maths of happiness.  Happiness is made up of three things yet any one these is not happiness, or even the beginning of happiness.  The three things are a positivity/negativity ratio of around 5 to 1, slightly more curiosity than advocacy, and slightly more interest in the outside world than ourselves.  We don’t add up these three variables.  Rather, they “feed” off each other. At any one time their coordinates (x,y,z) can be anywhere in a 3D space shaped like a 3D butterfly.

Happiness means we have a big plump space and the coordinates swoop around.  Unhappiness means they have a repetitive circle or limited space.  Here we see the dialectic between structure and function.

We are healthy when we are constantly regenerating ourselves in response to the world around us and what we were a minute ago.

We become ill when we don’t look after who we were one minute ago (right now in other words) and we don’t attend to what is going on around us.  We are ill when our head is anywhere except here and now.

There is room for day dreaming, planning and reminiscing.  But as the icing on the cake.  Devoting space to what we are not is not healthy. A healthy mind is asking what is going on now and celebrating what is rather than what is not.

### For the non-research minded

For the non-research minded, lets think of a cake made of flour, eggs and sugar.  We can vary the proportions, or at least good a baker can, and by varying proportions we get a good range of delicious cakes.   To have one type of cake all the time is boring.  Happiness, in this analogy, is a wide variety of cakes from plain biscuits to luscious forest cakes.   We have a plain biscuit today and we feel like a rich cake tomorrow, and vice versa.

Life becomes grim when the recipe never changes or we try to swap eggs for something else (like potatoes).  We need constant variety within broad rules.

We need to enjoy each cake for what it is.  A dry biscuit is that.  It is not chocolate cake. It never will be.

We also need to bake the cake. Happiness is the cake. Not a line of eggs, sugar and flour on the kitchen table.  It is a baked cake.  It is the product of interacting parts mixed sensibly.

## Poiesis

I didn’t know that poetry means makingAuto-poiesis is the poetry of ourselves. The constant interplay between structure (me) and function (the world).

## The psychological breakthrough of the noughties

One of the most surprising yet little understood results of psychological research this decade has been the Losada ratio.  Simply, you will get depressed if you experience more than 1 minor negative event to every 3 moderate positive events.

How do we remain sane on trains and tubes and cramped uncomfortable workplaces, I wonder.  Well we don’t.  We languish.  We become inflexible.  Our creativity drops.  And all our energy goes into managing the negativitiy.

Of course, we should become resilient.  Some even say we should become ‘hard’.  But we aren’t saying we should extinguish all negative results.  When negative stuff falls below 8%, we get manic.  The flip side of the 3:1 ratio is 11:1.  We need to be somewhere in between.

## We will take 17% of nonsense

The optimal rate is 5 moderate positive to 1 mild negative events.  Let’s spell that out.  People will take a mildly negative comment in the company of 5 moderately positive comments.  You can be mildly unpleasant 17% of the time without demolishing the creativity productivity and creativity of your team. Surely that is sufficient quota for you!!

## A simple model of 3 factors

The amazing thing about this research result is the positivity/negativity ratio is believed to interact with two other ratios.  In addition to being positive, it is also healthy to ask slightly more questions about facts, figures and other people’s views than to put on the table what we already know.  Moreover, it is healthy to be slightly more concerned with life outside the group than with internal processes.

Groups that interact in these ratios have moments when they are positive, questioning and externally-oriented and moments when they are negative, internally-oriented and pushing their own point of view. They also have all manner of combination in between the two extremes. If we assume they are one-or-the other, they have 2x2x2, that is 8 states they can be in.

## Understanding whether a group is healthy

How can we tell whether a group that is presently negative, internally-oriented and pushy is permanently in that state,  or in a natural swoop of mood?

Simply we cannot tell, until they change. Life isn’t a spectator sport.  If we want to know what  kind of group we are in, we have to hang about long enough to find out.

Funnily enough, if we are curious enough to stay, if we are willing to put our eggs in their basket, then they are more likely to swing into a more positive state.  We should remember though that emotion is contagious.  If they are in a very bad mood, take care to give yourself space to stay positive.  And don’t preach.  Ask! Or as Ben Zander says, apologize and invite. Preaching to preachers doesn’t get them to listen!

## Understanding whether a group will stay positive

Also remember, that joining a positive team that seems on top of the world is no guarantee that they will stay there.  Indeed, if they are healthy, they will not stay there.  They will swoop downwards and they are probably about to begin a downward sweep.  So be sure you are happy to join them on the ride.  Be happy that you will join them  . . .

That’s the way to judge a project.  Are you welcome and do you trust this group enough to put up with the bad times?  In sickness and in health?

## The question for New Year’s Eve

Remember life isn’t a spectator sport.  Who exactly are you loyal too?  That is the question for New Year’s Eve.  That’s the reason for New Year’s Eve.  To remember those to whom are we deeply committed in the year ahead.

## Our strengths are our connections to the environment

Our strengths are not in ourselves.  They are in our connections with our environment.  So says Ralph Stacey, complexity theorist at University of Hertfordshire.

What on earth does he mean?  Is this just some abstruse idea that I can safely ignore?  Is it some pop idea that it is not what you know, it is who you know?

I am going to explain this idea using ideas from MGMT101: very basic systems theory.

Imagine the world as set of concentric circles. Go on.  Draw them.  Draw three.

## Outer circle : macro-environment ~ the cloud

The very outer circle is the big bad world ~ the macro environment ~ the cloud. This is where you do your PEST analysis. This is where we worry about Politics, Economics, Social Trends like birth rates and Gen Y and Technological Change like Social Media.  What is happening in the stratosphere of our lives?  It is important to know this stuff.  In the slow moving world of the 1950’s, it was possible to look up and do this once a year.  In this day and age, you should have a set of Google Alerts just for this purpose. If you are a large organization, you should have part of your intranet reserved for articles on these topics written by your own staff in their areas of expertise.

## Outer circle but one : micro-environment ~ your pond

The ecosytem of our pond is quite complicated and we are sometimes overwhelmed by thinking it out.  I’ve found two concepts really help.

• Think of your lunch.  Who wants your lunch? The answer is often very surprising. After all, if scientists depend on government for their money, then they are in the businesses of public administration, government or politics.  This is usually an aha moment.
• Think of the food chain.  We are often make jokes about being at the bottom of the food chain. Actually you want to be at the bottom of the food chain. If you are nobody’s lunch, then there is no reason for your existence.   Who dies if you die?  Often your existence is rather diffuse.  So let’s phrase that a little.  Who would be inconvenienced if you closed down? You can see why businesses try to create monopolies. They are safe if they are indispensable.  Here is another aha moment when you see clearly who are your allies in the great game of  commerce.

When we have our competitors (they want our lunch) and our customers (they eat us), we are on the way to describing the ecosystem of our pond.

### Defining your micro-environment ~ your pond ~ is work that you have to do yourself

Both these questions about ‘lunch in the eco-system’ are hard to answer.  They are not like PEST which is common to huge swathes of people and answered in The Economist and other general sources like that.

These are questions you must answer.  I can suggest ideas. We can borrow ideas and insights from other people in the trade.  Occasionally we find a really good book on our business like Michael Riley’s Human Resource Management in the Hospitality Industry.  Mostly we have to sit down and answer

• Who wants my lunch?
• Who thinks I am their lunch?  Who depends upon me?

We need concrete answers.  Take photos for me.  Tell me what they had for breakfast and where they are are 2.17 in the morning.  Why that time?  Because you know them so well.

## The third circle – who are you and what is your agenda?

With those concrete and specific answers we can define the next circle.  Who are you and what are your strengths?

Now we do the SWOT analysis.  What are your strengths ~ your internal capacity, or things that you do every day, that allow you to be who you are.  Your weaknesses ~ those things you wish you weren’t (but might just be the flip side of your strengths).  The opportunities ~ those things coming up that you really want to do.  Threats ~ those things upcoming that you want to get out of.  You SWOT analysis is just a fancy ‘to do’ list.

Your strengths are the things you like to do and that you probably did yesterday too.  That’s what makes us thing they are us.

But they are really a story that we tell ourselves about us.  That’s why we look partly at our inner talk. We have a story of who we are, who we secretly fear that we are, we we secretly want to be.   We will always have our secret fears and aspirations, but our happiest times are when most of our story is out in the open.

And what is our story?  It is the story of what we do with other people for other people while we are up against a threat (those who want our lunch!).  It is a playful story about people who are in this game ~ with us and against us.  Cheering us on and getting in the way!

We cannot tell this story with the story of the outer two circles.  We cannot tell this story with the story of our times – the PEST analysis. We cannot tell the story without the story of our pond – Porter’s Five Forces.

Our story is a story about real people.  You must tell me who those people are.

Your strengths are your participation in the game of life. Everything you say and everything you do, with real live people.

Tell me that story and I will show you a successful business and blossoming career.

We all want to see ahead.  I am going to tell you that we cannot.

Yet we as surely as we court disaster when we get behind the wheel of the car when we have been drinking, we can run our organizations recklessly. You will get out of a car that is driven by a drunk, and you should aim to stay away from badly run organizations or at least to replace its management!

Let’s assume for a moment that you are one step back and you are choosing an organization.  Yes, choose. Even in a wicked recession, we choose. We choose which jobs we look at.  We choose which companies we research and approach.

Even as outsiders, there are 5 things to look out for to check the health of the organization.

These ideas are based on “systems theory”.  I hope any systems theorists reading this will comment.

### One: We are continuously mindful of how well we are doing as a team and what it takes for the whole team to win

In plain language: Do people say “we” and do they talk about real things.  Do they say things like “In December, the market is slow for us.”

Do they talk in terms of taking everyone with them?  Do they make sure all the stragglers keep up and do they all cross the finishing line together?

### Two: Everything matters, everything is connected to everything and connections get stronger with use!

In plain language: When you first approached the organization, did they start to “dance” with you?  Or were they stiff and rigid?  At the other extreme, were they hopelessly muddled?

Do they treat you like “white water”?  Do they work with the river and paddle gently or do they, at one extreme, fight the river [you] or at the other, not guide their canoe efficiently [be too relaxed and out-of-it]?

Is there feeling “give and take” or is the a feeling of force and rigidity or the opposite, no order at all?

### Three: History happens once.  Nothing will ever happen again

In plain language: Do people in the organization tell a story of where the company came from and where they are going to?  Or is the company a skeleton of procedures without any flesh?

When they  talk to you about your story, do they attend to relevant parts or are they distracted by inconsequential details?

When something surprises them, do they ask questions or do they dismiss what they don’t understand?

Do they ask you how you would do things out of curiosity (and not as a test of right and wrong)?

### Four: Birds fly in a flock without anyone giving orders!

In plain language: Are there 2 or 3 principles that govern this organization and are those sufficient to coordinate team work?  Do people point to the team work with evident pleasure?  Do they marvel that so much gets done with so little bossing around?

If you ask them what it would take to succeed on the job or fail on the job, can they give you 1 or 2 points or do they point you to manual that they haven’t read?

### Five: Has the organization made unusual discoveries about what is good, true, better and possible?

In plain language: Do people talk about times when they were working as usual and then they stumbled over a new solution that was much better than they had done before?

Are they slightly mystified about how that happened?  That’s a good sign.  Mutation is healthy and it is only mutation when it is a surprise!

## Qualify the organization

In sales, we only spend a lot of time on customers who need our products and services, who have the money to buy, and who intend to buy.  We “qualify” our customers.

We also have to qualify our organizations and move towards those who are healthy!

### Rating an organization

When you talk to someone about a job, rate the organization on each of the five points.  How do they stack up on a scale of  0 to 25?  Try it and rate organizations that are right under your nose.  See if you haven’t got far healthier organizations right under your nose where you live!

### Join up with people who will last the recession!

An inflexible organization will not last the recession.  And nor will one who is not organized at all.

Look for a healthy firm.  They will have the internal flexibility and mindfulness to adapt to the chaos in the environment. They will organize their affairs so you can grow. They will enjoy what they do and you will too.

Happy hunting and happy choosing!

## Writing to understand

I’ve been writing myself into this this morning.

### Does active listening work? And who for?

When someone is angry, and we are genuinely curious about what led to their anger, won’t they calm down?

### Is active listening fair?

Do they have any other choice?  If they have no choice, are we bullying them?  Do they lose out, in real terms or in psychological terms, when we really listen to them?

### Will passive-aggressives let you listen to them?  Won’t that spoil their fun?

Of course, someone who is in the habit of passive-aggression, or who habitually plays a “double-bind”, might be very disconcerted.  They might feel deprived.  But how long will that last?  I think we need some clinical psychologists to comment on that!

### Aren’t misunderstandings the key to getting along?

Earlier today, I wrote on the value of misunderstandings. If we go around the world looking for misunderstandings, relishing them, enjoying them, then aren’t we able to listen to people who seem to blunder from one misunderstanding to another?

## So what can we do about people who enjoy being angry?

To give my thoughts a more real-world test, I ran my mind over several people I know who really enjoy being angry. It is their modus operandi.  I think they would prefer not to be.  But they daren’t not be.

### When we listen to persistently angry people, they won’t let us listen.

They quickly side-step any inquiry about who they are or what they want from life.

Yes, we do have to hear their anger first.

• We have first to deal with the immediate situation that has got them going.
• And then the general situation about what made them feel disrespected by the world.
• And then with what is deeply valuable about their contribution to our well-being.

### Modern day maths helps explain being in love with anger

The maths of phase-states might help. This is a relatively new form of maths for me and I hope I don’t mis-explain or misunderstand it.

When we are healthy, we loop about through all moods  adjusting to reality and because of reality.  It makes no more sense to be permanently cheerful than it does to be permanently angry.

Systems flip out of control though.

We can get in a rut where we use a very limited range of emotions.  We go in circles, rather literally when our moods are drawn on a graph.

And when we are in a very bad way, we get stuck on a single point.  Let’s assume that people who are in a very bad way will get the help of a professional and put them aside for a moment. We don’t help them on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s just think about ourselves when we flip out of the swooping 3D butterfly that is normal and healthy and limit ourselves to an endless repetition of happy-sad, happy-sad, never growing and doomed to repeat ourselves rather precisely, often in the sad belief that this is normal.

Still thinking in numbers and graphs ~ it is quite normal to have fluctuations – a zig zag – Zig zags will remain and it is unhealthy when they are not there. Remember that!  The first sign of ill heath is the lack of a zig-zag – you know like the line on the heart monitor – when there is no zig zag you are dead!

Let’s keep using that as an analogy. Imagine your pulse is racing. We want it to slow down to a more normal level – for the graph to point downwards. For the line to move downwards, it must zig zag down. It is the zig-zagging that brings it down. If it was dead straight down you would wonder where it will stop – your instinct, and accurate instinct – is that you must slow-down the freefall – you’ll introduce some zig-zagging in other words!

We don’t wnat the zig zag to be so wild that we can’t zig afte a zag, or vice versa. But it should zig zag.

That’s why misunderstandings are so important.

Misunderstandings, however uncomfortable, reveal what is “true and good and better and possible”.  They are zig which we can turn into a zag.  And after a while we realize the line is going up (more mental health) as we muddle along.

## Endless circles

### People get on an endless repetitive circle when they shut down negative feeling rather than explore it.

And they shut it down, when no one believes in them enough to listen to them. Learning ends and they repeat themselves in an effort to be heard.

### If only someone somewhere would just listen!

If only someone somewhere would afford them the respect of assuming their temper tantrum is about something important!

If only someone somewhere would give them the respect of assuming that their temper tantrum is valid because they are valid.

Then they have a chance of learning from the zag.

And we would too.  Misunderstandings tell us a lot when we start by assuming the other person’s point of view is valid.

## I hope that active listening is not unfair

I hope I don’t spoil the day of the passive-aggressives.

No that is not quite true! When they are annoying me, I probably do hope I spoil their day because they are making mine worse.

But from the luxury of a sunny English autumn morning, I hope I don’t spoil their day. I just want them to be happy. I don’t mind that they are angry. Anger is a legitimate emotion. I just want to say that to them. It is OK. Be angry. We understand.  You are still important to us . You are still one of us.

## Endless curiosity

And being endlessly curious, I’ll learn what they are about and why they are so important to our story on this earth.

Irrepressible enthusiasm. Damn, you can’t keep an exuberant person down!

Lose weight by weighing less

So said The Atlantic in a side-swipe at Gary Hamel, the management professor.  They meant to damn him  They meant to say he was being tautological – or in plain language – saying black is black.  Unknowingly, they were being profound!  What they don’t realize is that management theory has moved on.  Like modern psychology, it has expanded its horizons.  The mathematical models we use have changed and to say we lose weight by weighing less is sound modelling.

Cause-and-effect was our first question

One hundred years ago, we were captivated by questions of cause-and-effect.  What causes overweight, we might ask. And we came up with models that said the more food went in the more fat on our body.    Food is is food.   Fat is fat.  They are different and one causes the other.

And so it went on.  We said intelligence led to success in later life.  We said that eating well led to intelligence.  On and on.

Actually few of these factors are independent of each other.  Fat is transformed from food.  And intelligence is a make-believable variable that exists only because it is associated with success.

Now we ask how a phenomenon changes over time

That said, we aren’t that interested in these models any more or the general question of what causes what.

These days we are more interested in recursive models.  Lose weight by weighing less is exactly what interests me.  Today I might way 60 kg.  Tomorrow I may weigh 59.9 kg or 60.1 kg.  What is the natural fluctuation in my weight and what leads to the weight getting greater (or less) and then reversing direction.

We know weight is caused by what goes in and what goes out.  And both of those are dependent on each other.  I will eat more more I have skipped meals and I will exercise less when I’ve had too much or too little to eat.    We are interested in all the relevant factors change in time and how they interact with each other in a highly fluctuating yet essentially self-correcting and stable system.

What doesn’t change may well be sick

Illness comes from lack of fluctuation. We should worry about utterly static weight and a completely constant appetite.

How do we shift systems?

Anyone who has tried to shift their typical weight, for vanity or to please their doctor, knows that it is quite hard to do.  There seems to be homeostatic levels which remain fairly constant given any set of circumstances.  Complexity theorists know that systems are self-replicating.  They also know the “shape” of the system matters.    We expect a system to fluctuate a lot but like our weight, in a general range.  When we get no fluctuation, or when our weight rockets or plummets, then we are ill!

Shifting entire systems requires a different form of thinking.  More on that another day.

For now, yes – we can lose weight by weighing less.  It is a weak system of change to look at the scales each day.  But it will work.  Just weigh less every day and you will lose weight.  Perfect mathematical model. Perfect science.

Sorry The Atlantic.  Misguided taunt.  Another one of these areas where the world has changed a lot in the last five years.  Now we do recursive models not cause-and-effect models.

Image via Wikipedia

## “It’s about survival, not ego”.

So said Techcrunch about Pandora’s founder.

Hmm. Losada used Lorenz equations to find 3 factors to distinguish successful business teams from unsuccessful teams.

• Sincere requests for information slightly outnumber proposals for action
• Positive comments outnumber negative statements by 5 to 1 (83% in other words)
• Talk about the outside world slightly exceeds talk about the team.

So sometimes the team is complaining that the team is shite.   Inactive, negative and internal.  That’s fine.  As long as later in the day they are talking about what their customers like and the positive points they will push off from.

Unsuccessful teams get stuck in a place of gloom, or, in a place of self-congratulation.

Successful teams swoop gloriously around the whole emotional space like a happy butterfly tracing its own shadow and colouring in the outline in 3D technicolor.

Being in touch with reality in all its forms, good and bad, is what it is all about.

Oh, I am so irritated.  I’ve been doing tax returns all day.  They have to be one of the most irritating things in life, and not because someone is taking money off us.  They are irritating because they are convoluted, fiddly, and complicated.

There are plenty of other complicated things in life too.  Airports with signs that send you anywhere except where you want to go.  Bosses who change their minds quicker than change their socks.  And road signs!  Zemanta, the Firefox Addon which searches the web while you write your blog, found this humbdinger of signage from Toronto, dubbed ‘The Audacity of Nope‘.

## The opposite of complicated is complex

Instead of the stop-start sensation we get when details are allowed to disrupt the flow of the whole, complexity is when the parts come together to make something bigger themselves – like the mexican wave in a home crowd.

### Is eliminating complicatedness and creating complexity the essence of professional life?

Do architects create buildings where we flow, never having to stop and scratch our heads, or to backtrack?

Do brilliant writers grab attention our attention in the first line and take us with them into a world where we follow the story without distraction from out of place detail?

Do leaders describe our group accomplishment, and draw us into a collective adventure, to play our part without constant prodding and cajoling?

## How do you create complexity in your work?

In what ways do you help us experience the whole where parts fit in without discord?

• What is the ‘whole’ thing that you make?  If you can’t name it, can you visualize it, or hear it?
• What are the essential parts of the whole, and the linkages between the parts that are essential to form the whole?
• What are the signs that you look out for that the whole is ‘forming’, or ‘not forming’, as it should?
• What are the extra bits of help that from time-to-time you add for the whole to come to fruition?

I’m interested in the complexity you manage, and the beautiful and satisfying experiences you add to the world.

## Come with me

Image via Wikipedia

### Any of these topics – psychology, chaos theory and complexity theory – is heavy reading on its own.  All three together?

David Pinctus’ new blog explains chaos and complexity theory in psychology and is tucked away at the end of the Self-Help blogs on Psychology Today.  David’s blog is probably far too heavy reading for the typical self-help audience.  It is important reading for anyone interested in positive psychology and where this new field is going.

• Psychology has traditionally looked for linear models.  We look for phenomena that grow bigger or smaller in direct proportion to something else.  Happiness is likely to be a non-linear phenomenon.  A small thing can make us very happy; a large event can wash over us.
• Psychology assumes that my behavior is essentially unconnected from yours.  Our models require all our observations to be independent of each other – do you remember that distantly?  Though much of the positive psychology empirical research is still conducted in the ‘old school of research’, it is our interconnections with others that are more interesting.
• Psychology has difficulty with time.  We are taught simply to use time as sparingly as possible in our models.  As a consequence we have little idea “what will happen next” or how long anything takes.  If tomorrow is a result of today, how do we describe that trajectory?

David Pinctus explains “non-linear dynamical systems“.  Though he hasn’t talked directly about positive psychology as yet, listing him under “Self-Help”, tells it all.

He also devoted three posts to a series on Batman.  Ordinarily, you would have had to drag me along kicking-and-screaming to a batman movie.  I hated it too!  But his review gave the movie depth I wouldn’t have fathomed on my own and a useful way of thinking about the deep, festering conflicts in many organizations.

I am glad to have a blog written by an academic who has deep mastery of the methodology in this field and who writes well. I am subscribed, watching, reading and learning!