The October 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review included an interesting article, “Learning to Live with Complexity.” Its authors, Gokce Sargut and Rita Gunther McGrath, describe the difference between something being merely complicated and genuinely complex.
Let’s think in terms of systems. Complicated systems have many moving parts, like a wristwatch with gears, but they operate in patterned ways. In contrast, complex systems have patterned ways, but the interactions, or variables are continually changing. In the former, one can usually predict outcomes; the math may be easy, with linear relationships. In the latter, certain factors cause changes in the constant interactions with numerous variables and nonlinear relationships. For example, an air traffic controller must adjust for delays caused by weather and aircraft maintenance.
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