Complexity Sciences

  • Joachim P. Sturmberg


Complexity sciences, in plain English, are the sciences of interconnectedness.

The aim of complexity sciences is to understand the many different facets of phenomena. Complexity sciences employs a variety of different methodological approaches to describe and to analyse multifaceted phenomena like health, the economy, or environmental systems.
  • Basically, a system consists of a number of parts that are connected to each other. Systems differ depending on the nature of their connectedness. Simple systems have one-to-one relationships and their behaviour is precisely predictable. Complicated systems have one-to-many relationships with mostly predictable behaviours.

  • This book deals with complex adaptive systems with many-to-many relationships. Their many-to-many relationships make their behaviour emergent, hence their outcomes are unpredictable. Complex adaptive systems have a special characteristic, the members of the system can learn from feedback and experiences. The relationships in complex adaptive systems change constantly allowing the system to evolve over time in light of changing demands. However, a system’s overall behaviour, despite its adaptation to changing circumstances, remains relatively stable within boundaries, but occasionally, its behaviour may change abruptly and dramatically for no apparent reason.

One can compare the behaviour of complex adaptive systems to that of a family; most of the time a family stays together despite ups and downs, but occasionally a family can abruptly break apart to the surprise of its members and its surroundings.
  • Another important characteristic of complex adaptive systems is its nonlinear behaviour to change, i.e. the magnitude of change in one member of the system shows a disproportional change in that of others. As experience shows, small changes in the behaviour of a system member often show dramatic changes in the behaviour of the whole system, whereas a major change in the behaviour of that member typically results in little or no change.

Studying complex adaptive systems aims to understand the relationships and the dynamics between the members of the systems. This understanding allows for better responses when the system as a whole is challenged by constraints and/or unfamiliar challenges.

A special characteristic of social systems is their “goal-delivering” nature. In organisational terms these are codified by their purpose, goals, and values statements.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim P. Sturmberg
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NewcastleWamberalAustralia

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