Science strives for precision and finding the right or at least the best answers to questions. The science of complexity means shifting our thinking from right answers to appropriate ones and what is best to good. The recent debate over parenting (particularly among Chinese families) illustrates how framing the issue and the outcomes makes a big difference. Is Amy Chua’s method of parenting successful or not, supportive or harmful, right or wrong? The answer is yes.
complex adaptive systems
By paying attention — being mindful — of what you’re doing and how it is working, you can start to build a longer-term strategy or pattern of activity that moves you along to where you want to go. It also prevents you from the let down at having not achieved your goals, but setting yourself up for success rather than failure. These kinds of strategies address the complexity of human lives and provide a useful replacement for New Year’s Resolutions.
Complex systems require the kind of deep attention that science brings, the spirit of engagement and problem solving that designers offer, and a space to bring them together. With their focus on reductionist science and the lack of embrace of design, universities haven’t been the home to this kind of thinking. But things can change because, after all, this is a complex dynamic system we’re talking about.
Systems thinking requires spectrum thinking. People must be able to see things on a gradient, rather than in absolute compartments. Students can’t be faulted too much for having a hard time with this when they are graded based on letters where a B+ is a 79 and an A- is one percentage point higher, yet the mere presence of a B (anything) on a transcript can mean the difference between an award, admission, or a job and not.
In the social media and marketing world there is a concept called “brand democratization”, which refers to the notion of having your customers contribute to and partly shape a brand’s identity. Marty Neumeier, who has written extensively on branding, asserts that a brand isn’t what the producers of the product say it is, but rather …
Our tweets and Facebook posts provide us with new ways to tell stories that can be as rich as traditional methods. By viewing these narrative fragments in context, we can learn a lot about our world and the way that we communicate.
“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” If staying the same requires change, then what good is standing still? Actually, quite a lot. A mindful look at the systems around us.
Learning, when done to its fullest, is a disruptive activity that changes the way things are done. Yet, our education system is designed for change on a modest scale. With school back in swing, it is time to welcome the headaches brought by those who truly learn.