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Managing Complexity in Social Systems

Leverage Points for Policy and Strategy

  • Book
  • © 2023
  • Latest edition


  • Second revised and updated edition
  • Provides tools, cases, and examples that help readers manage complexity and systems thinking
  • Includes tips on how to manage complexity in a highly interconnected world

Part of the book series: Management for Professionals (MANAGPROF)

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About this book

This book explores how to manage complexity in a highly interconnected world. How can complexity be managed when it cannot be reduced? From organizational addiction to market failure, from limits to growth to the rebound effect, from tragedy of the commons to path dependence, answers are anything but trivial, and can only be found by combining insights from complexity science, system dynamics, system theory and systems thinking. This book bridges the gap between rigorous science and real-life experience to explore the potential and limitations of systems archetypes and their leverage points in implementing effective policies and strategies. It is grounded in Jay Forrester’s language of stock and flow diagrams to address issues of circular causality and causal loops in social systems.

The second edition has been completely updated, revised, and extended to thoroughly analyze super wicked problems such as global climate change, climate neutrality, and extremely rapid spread of epidemics. Furthermore, it offers a novel integration of Peter Senge’s concept of systems archetypes with Horst Rittel’s concept of wicked problems. 

“This text is an important contribution to an emerging field of thought. I have enjoyed and benefitted from reading this text; you will also.”

Dennis L. Meadows, Emeritus Professor of Systems Management, University of New Hampshire, USA

“This book looks at the world from a different, yet very effective vantage point: the systemic perspective… The author delivers a perfect introduction to systemic thinking, – unorthodox, insightful and practical.”

Markus Schwaninger, Emeritus Professor of Management, University of St.Gallen, Switzerland

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Table of contents (22 chapters)

  1. From Logic to Circular Causality

  2. Describing and Understanding Dynamics of Social Systems

  3. Managing Tame Systems Archetypes

  4. Managing Wicked Systems Archetypes

Authors and Affiliations

  • University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

    Christoph E. Mandl

About the author

Christoph E. Mandl is a Ph.D. graduate in Operations Research at ETH Zurich, Switzerland; adjunct professor at the University of Vienna, Austria; senior lecturer at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Austria; member of the Balaton Group; founding member of the Global Association of Society for Organizational Learning Communities; founding member of the Austrian Society of Operations Research; former postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA; and former member at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria

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