Lately I’ve been preoccupied with complexity. One of the main expectations of active, accountable, and professional adults in this millennium is to react quickly, effectively, and efficiencly to complexities that arise in the workplace, marketplace, and their lives, and be able to make decisions that result in positive outcomes–for themselves, those around them, and mainly, for their company’s bottom line.  The fun part begins when there are multiple complex situations that need resolving in what initially seems a short amount of time.

Now, not all complexity leads to hard decisions and pain, obviously. However, many of my friends subscribe to the philosophy that bad news or hard times always come in a series of three events… with the third one, possibly, the hardest to overcome. Kind of like waves on a beach, sometimes things come in threes, with the last one the largest of the set.

So what is complexity? How does it comes about, what’s classified that way, how is it perceived, how is it diagnosed, how should people react to it, how should decisions lead to positive outcomes? I am especially interested in people’s emotional reactions. What does someone do when things don’t happen their way, when people’s (maybe wrong, likely not well thought) actions lead to overly complex or out of hand/control situations, or when too many “bad” things take place and put people in a somewhat unexpected, frozen state of inaction–in view of (1) so intense a situation or (2) so many possible options to chose from.

Well it all plays on how a person can cope with the immediate, complex situation that may arise. People can cope/react based on prior knowledge/experience, conduct a cool and level-minded analysis of the situation at hand, react through emotion (and possibly make the wrong decision), solicit feedback from close friends and family (pooling know-how and experience), etc… and on and on. There are as many ways to react to complexity, as there are people.

As a starting point, I looked up the “complexity” on, where else, wikipedia and Merriam Webster’s online dictionary. But it’s not easy finding consensus when it comes to a  definition for complexity. For one thing, defining something as complicated or complex can lead into very gray, subjective territory–particularly based on what background the perceiver comes from. It’s, well, to use a cliche, all in the beholder’s eye.

According to one source, complexity is “characterized by lack of symmetry or “symmetry breaking”, by the fact that no part or aspect of a complex entity can provide sufficient information to actually or statistically predict the properties of the others parts.” These uncertainty and asymmetry are strong indicators as to the main reasons people can become frozen in indecision, rather than able to make a decision and move forward–and although imbalances are always tricky to identify, particularly when a person is very close to a situation, any imbalance that’s identified needs correcting.(emergence). It is also believed that complexity can be neutral, between order and disorder–the actions in support of an outcome will determine the movement towards a particular range on the scale. The array of variety and level of dependency among/between the aspects of a situation create an incredible amount of possibilities, therefore making a decision harder to make as more variables need to be considered, along with the effects of actions and decisions.theory (butterfly effect). This can certainly add stress for someone in the position to make a decision, when they must consider that however minute a decision’s outcome may seem at the moment, the outcome may very well lead (catapult, avalanche) to repercussions and effects felt far strongly elsewhere along the continuum. Oh no! ;o)

All around it is believed complexity always originates from simple interactions or events.
A discussion of complexity of course, would not be complete without bringing up the

So complexity really is a complex topic. I find that complexity is in everything I do and everywhere I go. It’s very much a part of who I am. How does complexity rear its head in your neck of the woods?


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