Complexity Experience Exercise � Debrief Instructions by x5YKdrJ


									          Complexity Experience Exercise – Debrief Instructions

In groups of 5, talk with each other about the following points:

1. What was the experience like? What happened? What was written on your card?
   What was written on the cards of others?
2. Discuss what happened in terms of the 6 complexity science principles: self-
   organisation & emergence; diversity; the edge of chaos; history and time;
   unpredictability; and, pattern recognition (see info for this below).
3. As you go along, use flip chart paper to write down some key learning points
   under the headings of each of the six principles.
4. Consider the implications these principles may have in the real world: In
   organisations? In research? In the lab? Elsewhere?
5. Share your thoughts with the larger group at the end (i.e. before lunch).

The objective of this part of the exercise is to reflect, share thoughts, develop
understanding, and make sense of what happened in the complexity experience in
order to relate this to your own work.

Self-Organisation & Emergence
Who was in control of what was happening during the exercise?
Did hierarchy play a role?
Did anyone know what the outcome would be in advance?
Could you predict what would happen next?
To what extent were people getting on with their own individual objectives?
Talk about how people were interacting with others and adapting with them. Consider
what novelty emerged during the exercise that was not intended according to the
instructions on the cards of individuals - back up your points using real examples
from the complexity experience exercise. Does what you experienced enable you to
draw any conclusions about leadership and management?
NB: Complex systems structure themselves out of themselves. Interacting elements
act according to simple rules. Order is created out of chaos. Patterns emerge from
interactions. Patterns inform the behaviour of the system. New qualities arise through
particular types of networks and higher complexity out of many simple components is

The Edge of Chaos
Talk about the way things ‘changed’ through the experience.
What types of change occurred?
What transitions happened? From what to what?
Talk about the experience in terms of creativity.
Discuss the opportunities this presented for novelty to emerge and consider what this
might imply for people in organisations.
NB: Living networks move through a critical phase between chaos and order where
networks find creativity and stability in an optimal balance. Living systems are most
creative, with the greatest potential for discovering order that expresses an emergent
property for the whole system when they move through the ‘edge of chaos’. Systems
naturally undergo transitions from current order to chaos, from which emerges new

Discuss the diversity within the group and how this affected the experience during the
Talk about how this reflects the reality of day-to-day activities and your own
working/research lives.
Consider the role of diversity in the context of change, human interactions, flexibility
and strength in a system.
NB: Networks combine the most different variants, characters, and functions. High
diversity creates more possibilities to react flexibly in the context of environmental
change. The greater the variety within the system the stronger it is – and paradox
abounds. Contradiction can be used to create new possibilities to co-evolve with the

Discuss ‘unpredictability’ in the context of what you have already discussed about the
exercise and your experience in it.
Talk about the level of detailed prediction possible in the exercise.
To what extent was the actual detail and order of the outcome of the exercise
determined by an elite group?
Was anyone trying to forecast or control behaviour? Do you think this would be
possible if the simulation was run again?
To what extent were actions isolated?
Talk about the way certain group or networks within the exercise were beginning to
form and the way people were acting and reacting among each other.
Discuss the extent to which things happening in one place may have had
consequences elsewhere in the experience.
What effect did changes have on other changes that occurred?
NB: Consider the weather: even though we know that certain things are possible, it
does not mean we can always predict what will happen, where, when, and how, etc.
Due to complicated interrelations, it’s very difficult to foresee or try to control
behaviour of the nodes of the network, when reacting to impulses (from outside or
inside the network). Emergent order is holistic – a consequence of interactions
between elements of the system. All systems exist within their own environment and
they are also part of that environment – as their environment changes they need to
ensure best fit. When they change, they change their environment too.

History and time
In what way did the aspects of history and time play a role in the experience?
Discuss the way the instructions were carried out during the exercise?
How were they modified as time went on?
How could the interactions of others and the consequences of their actions be
described over time?
What about pre-existing relationships within the group? Did this effect who people
were more likely to interact with?
Did previous experiences at the individual level have an effect on the way the game
was played out? How?
Discuss the way decisions may have been made that brought the group to where it
ended at the end of the exercise.
NB: In a social context the series of decision which an individual makes from a
number of alternatives partly determines the subsequent path of the individual.
Before a decision is made there are a number of alternative – after, it becomes part
of history and influences the subsequent options open to the individual. Unique
histories mean that every decision made in organisation is context specific, as are
the outcomes.

Pattern Recognition
What patterns could be seen emerging in the exercise?
To what extent was it possible to talk about direct links of cause and effect?
What about randomness? Were people and groups linking in random ways or was
there more to it than that?
How were small numbers of people loosely coupled to others?
Could small changes be seen to have larger effects elsewhere?
Was repetition a pattern? How?
Discuss what you next steps would be if you were thrown back in the exercise
situation again now – having had time to reflect on what happened.
NB: By looking back at where we have come from we can start to make sense of
where we are now – even though this is always constrained by a subjective
perspective and limited information. Although you can’t change anything that
happened in the past, you can certainly learn from experiences and be more
prepared to adapt and change in the future.

Complex systems are defined in terms of rich interconnections between diverse
components. The ways agents in a system connect or relate to each other is critical
to the survival of the system – from these connections patterns are formed and
feedback disseminated, relationships between agents are more important that agents
themselves. Self-organised, living networks always show similar patterns. Feedback
is the systems way of staying constantly tuned to the environment and landscape
and enables the system to re-adjust its behaviour. In far from equilibrium conditions
change is non-linear, so small changes can be amplified, and produce exponential
change. Networks are able to provide stability, while reaching to changes and
impulses of the environment. In case of disturbances networks change the patterns
of the interrelations of the nodes, the more complex, the more options for change.
Novel, emergence order arises through cycles of iteration in which a pattern of
activity, defined by rules or regularities, is repeated over and over again, giving rise in
coherent order. Structures are produced by different historical events and unique
interactions. Through feedback loops (positive and negative) incidences may
produce an unpredictable resonance; the chaotic state has a distinctive pattern to the
fluctuations in variables – pattern changes as order begins to emerge from chaos.

To top