Skip to main content

Managing Complexity

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Managing Complexity in Social Systems

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

  • 1079 Accesses

Abstract

All previous chapters point in the same direction: Social systems are insensitive to most managerial efforts to alter their behavior yet they do have a few sensitive influence points through which behavior can be changed. But even if behavior changes, such change is not necessarily the one managers and policymakers want to bring about. From the banal—“we need to increase revenues by 10% next year”—to the sophisticated, “we need to become more innovative” or “we need to stop climate change,” business and government lore is full of decisions that never materialize. Phil Rosenzweig (2007) analyzed how managers let themselves be deceived by simple recipes for success. Is the very idea that management and governance exists a myth? Are social systems really manageable?

To pass freely through open doors, it is necessary to respect the fact that they have solid frames. This principle … is simply a requisite of the sense of reality. But if there is a sense of reality, and no one will doubt that it has its justifications for existing, then there must also be something we can call a sense of possibility. Whoever has it does not say, for instance: Here this or that has happened, will happen, must happen; but he invents: Here this or that might, could, or ought to happen. If he is told that something is the way it is, he will think: Well, it could probably just as well be otherwise. So the sense of possibility could be defined outright as the ability to conceive of everything there might be just as well, and to attach no more importance to what is than to what is not.

Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 64.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

References

  • Albert R, Jeong H, Barabási A (2000) Error and attack tolerance of complex networks. Nature 406:378–382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ashby WR (1945) Effect of controls on stability. Nature 155:242–243

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bateson G (1972) Steps to an ecology of mind. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  • de Price DJS (1974) Gears from the Greeks: the Antikythera mechanism, a calendar computer from ca. 80 BC. Trans Am Philos Soc 64

    Google Scholar 

  • Doege J, Schiltknecht P, Lüthi HJ (2006) Risk management of power portfolios and valuation of flexibility. OR Spectr 28(2):267–287

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Forrester J (1969) Urban dynamics. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Forrester J (1971) Counterintuitive behavior of social systems. Technol Rev 73(3):52–68

    Google Scholar 

  • Forrester J (2000) From the Ranch to system dynamics: an autobiography. MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Mandl C (2001) Wörterbuch des Führens. In: Führen – Zwischen Hierarchie und …: Komplexität nutzen – Selbstorganisation wagen. Versus Verlag

    Google Scholar 

  • Mandl C (2006) Gewissheit, Risiko und Neues. In: Aufgabe Zukunft: Versäumen, planen, ermöglichen … Versus Verlag

    Google Scholar 

  • Mandl C (2011) Systemdenken lernen. profile 20:75–84

    Google Scholar 

  • Meadows D (1997) Places to intervene in a system. Whole Earth, Winter

    Google Scholar 

  • Meadows D (2008) Thinking in systems: a primer. Chelsea Green, Hartford

    Google Scholar 

  • Meadows D, Randers J, Meadows DL (2004) Limits to growth – the 30-year update. Chelsea Green, Hartford

    Google Scholar 

  • Mintzberg H (2005) Managers not MBAs: a hard look at the soft practice of managing and management development paperback. Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  • Musil R (1979) The man without qualities. Picador, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Osterwalder A, Pigneur Y (2010) Business model generation. Wiley, Hoboken

    Google Scholar 

  • Popper K (1945) The open society and its enemies. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Popper K (1999) All life is problem solving. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Repenning N, Sterman J (2001) Nobody ever gets credit for fixing problems that never happened: creating and sustaining process improvement. Calif Manage Rev 43(4):64–88

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenzweig P (2007) The Halo effect: … and the eight other business delusions that deceive managers. The Free Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz P (1996) The art of the long view: planning for the future in an uncertain world. Doubleday, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Senge P (1990) The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. Doubleday, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Steffen W, Sanderson R, Tyson P, Jäger J, Matson P, Moore B III, Oldfield F, Richardson K, Schellnhuber H, Turner B, Wasson R (2004) Global change and the earth system: a planet under pressure. Springer, Berlin

    Google Scholar 

  • Von Foerster H (1973) On constructing a reality. In: Preiser W (ed) Environmental design research, vol 2. Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Stroudsburg, pp 35–46

    Google Scholar 

  • Von Foerster H (1984) Principles of self-organization – in a socio-managerial context. In: Ulrich H, Probst G (eds) Self-organization and management of social systems. Springer, Berlin

    Google Scholar 

  • Von Foerster H (2003) Understanding understanding: essays on cybernetics and cognition. Springer, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Whorf B (1940) Science and linguistics. MIT Technol Rev 42(6):229–231, 247–248

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Mandl, C.E. (2019). Managing Complexity. In: Managing Complexity in Social Systems. Management for Professionals. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-01645-6_21

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics