Systems, Complexity and Networks

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment


Photo by: Gany

A shared e-mail from Curtis to Gibran


Was just thinking of you, especially in light of the following tweet, which I really want to discuss with you (and others at IISC if they are interested) – The evolution is from systems, to complexity to networks – these transcend and include each other.  Great stuff, and I want to explore this more.  I want to understand it better.   To me these are almost like apples and oranges, all related, and I want to see what Jeff (and perhaps you) see as the nested nature of these.  To me complexity is a state, a dynamic.  Systems and networks have overlap in my mind, but I am still struggling to clearly articulate the difference.  Something like – systems are the background of complex relationships and dynamics in which networks are embedded.  And already I feel like I’m getting a little circular here.  Or how about this – for a network to be effective (aware and intentional) it must understand (or at least appreciate) the systemic environment in which it exists and also have an appreciation of the dynamics of complexity therein (so that it does not simply default to old school coalition-like activity).


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  • Melinda says:

    Reminiscent of the conversation G and were having a few weeks ago after our Staff Meeting wherein the full staff was updates about the SA “roots of our practice” conversation where we discussed moving away from naming “networks” as a root, out of an appreciation for the larger context/sphere within which networks (and a host of other things) are helpful and important. I want to continue eavesdropping on this coversation…and contribute to it as time and space allow.

  • Cynthia Parker says:

    In our full staff conversation about networks, systems and complexity, we concluded that networks and complexity were subsets of a larger idea of systems thinking. It seems that we didn’t have a full awareness of how each school of thought/discipline developed and influenced the next. So, I’m glad for the further exploration.

    Here’s one thought to add to the mix… It seems to me that systems thinking and network thinking are both concerned with the nature and strength of relationships among a set of elements and the ways in which those elements are able (or not) to function or express their capacities. Also, both are concerned with synergies that arise because of the interactions and placement of the elements.

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