Companies are no strangers to complexity. As they interface with complex economies and human social groups, they routinely encounter emergence, feedback loops, and other complex systems behaviors. The trick is for staff to spot and manage such phenomena, encouraging the beneficial behaviors and curtailing the detrimental ones.
To that end, SFI’s Applied Complexity Network (ACtioN) is offering a new program for its members. The Studio is a multi-day intensive workshop wherein a group of a firm’s decision-makers convene at SFI and meet with SFI scientists to work through aspects of complexity theory that apply to their organization’s specific challenges.
“It’s a great way to see how theories developed at SFI are applied to concrete problems,” says Will Tracy, SFI’s VP for Strategic Partnerships who runs ACtioN and the Studio program. When an organization expresses interest in holding a Studio, Tracy works with them to establish which aspects of complexity science apply to their problem domain and match the best researchers to their Studio.
Most days start with two SFI scholars explaining principles and factors related to the day’s theme. SFI Distinguished Professor and Past President Geoffrey West, for example, has used insights on biological scaling to talk about expected lifespans of companies vis-a-vis organizational bureaucracy; Mirta Galesic, SFI’s Cowan Chair in Human Social Dynamics, discussed research findings about group decision-making and implications for structuring such processes; and External Professor Brian Arthur has shown how the elements of true technological innovation can foster radical breakthroughs.
After each day’s initial executive education session, the Studio participants discuss how the theories they learned apply to their organization’s challenges. Later in the day, they reconvene with the SFI faculty to discuss these applications and refine their approaches.
Tracy ran three of these Studios in as many months this summer. “Everyone we worked with so far has asked about doing more within a week of the first one.”
To learn more about SFI’s Applied Complexity Network, email ACtioN@santafe.edu.