Re: Complexity, Languaging and Design LO1082

Michael McMaster (
Sat, 6 May 1995 07:10:17 +0000

Replying to LO1028 --

In response to my comments about a team emerging, Ivan says (and
> This complexity would eventually disipate as "the new patterns"
> are mastered and "universally" accepted by most people in and outside the
> organization, even if they are not sanctioned by the "authority
> structure." My question is then are all forms of complexity temporary?

The answer must be "yes, they are all temporary" if the time scale is long
enough. This may be the true joy, mystery or challenge of life. Is anyone
looking for permanence?

However, it's not quite as fleeting as it first seems. If we act so that
_a_ team emerges, then little can be expected to last - even of that team
and its players. If we act so that an organisation of teams emerges,
something is likely to become much longer lived which will cast its shadow
far into the future.

First, we will cease to be aware of what has become "just the way it
is". In this process, language and physical structures will change
to have this form persist so that what will tend to disipate is the
life force and the original form but something will also be created
that will have a much longer life of its own.

The progress of "forms of complexity" - at least those of complex
adaptive systems - are moving to ever increasing complexity. (With
the caveat that any particular form may not be - i.e. any particular
one may be moving to rapid extinction.) The next more complex form
emerges from the interplay of current levels of complexity to produce
more complex forms. The older complex forms, while they may
disappear as themselves, are embodied (in a sense) in the new more
complex forms that emerge from them. These "frozen accidents" of
historical processes or evolution become factors in the more later
forms even thought they may no longer be indentifiable individually.

This is similar to the processes that have occurred for our
predominating form of hierarchical organisation. When it was new, it
had a certain "life of its own" and was quite vibrant. Even
hierarchical organisations were not always as they are now. Now
there is virtually no life in these forms of organisation and much
has turned to the characteristics of what the British socialists
liked to call "the iron cage of capitalism". But the phenomenon,
while more complex and more detailed, has survived a very long time.

We are as often faced with the problem of things not disipating fast
enough as with that of disipation setting in before its time. I am
interested in the processes of increasing the rate of disipation
(hence, the variants of postmodernism) as much as increasing the
rate of emergence.

Michael McMaster