BIT Studio

September 30, 2015

Complex Adaptive Systems

Filed under: MUSIC — webmaster @ 6:14 am

  Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) has been applied across many industries to create infrastructures that identify and respond to incremental change in an organized and timely fashion. Used in professional sectors such as manufacturing, stock market, computer algorithms, health care, and economics, it has proven itself successful in identifying and quantifying core values and producing tangible results.

Dr. Sholom Glouberman and Dr. Brenda Zimmerman (recognized expert on Complexity Theory and former Director of the York University Schulich School of Business Health Industry Management Program) identify three categories of problems: simple, complicated, and complex. “In simple problems like cooking by following a recipe, the recipe is essential. …Recipes produce standardized products and the best recipes give good results every time. Complicated problems, like sending a rocket to the moon, are different. …High levels of expertise in a variety of fields are necessary for success. …In some critical ways, rockets are similar to each other and because of this there can be a relatively high degree of certainty of outcome. Raising a child, on the other hand, is a complex problem. …Although expertise can contribute to the process in valuable ways, it provides neither necessary nor sufficient conditions to assure success. …As a result there is always some uncertainty of the outcome.”

The design of Complexity Theory solutions focuses on building a framework based on simple rules. They are not static and they adapt to change through processes built upon simple questions identified at a meta-level. CAS requires an interactive infrastructure. Dr. Zimmerman writes “Complex systems are non-linear and exhibit a great deal of noise, tension and fluctuation as they interact with the rest of the environment.”

The power of reframing a problem within a new paradigm cannot be understated. For many years, international arts and culture conflicts were dealt with as cultural exemptions through GATT agreements and World Trade Organization rulings. Neither of these forums were able to quantify and measure the value of culture and results were typically unfavourable. In 2000, the cultural problem was rebranded as a need for cultural diversity, a strategy that not only by-passed a frontal attack on WTO mandates, but also created a rallying cry for all countries to recognize the importance of their own cultural heritages and to join forces in an international effort (UNESCO Convention 2005) to separate culture from the existing world trade infrastructure.

Another reframing example happened during the AIDS crisis. Brazil chose to address the World Health Organization questionnaire by posing complex questions versus complicated questions. Reframing the problem as being open-ended and flexible (complex) rather than monetized and quantified (complicated) resulted in a 50% improvement over WHO casualty forecasts. In simplistic terms, they did not like the answers so they changed the questions, which ultimately changed the outcome.

Complex Adaptive Systems are able to produce solutions that, through communication, discovery, and continuous adaptation, address problems with a deep level of insight obtained through reworking many of the questions inherent in established systems.


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