Monthly Archives: February 2013

Refreshing read on regularities in complex systems

I just came across this blog post by Cynthia Kurtz, who wrote with Dave Snowden the paper “The new dynamics of Strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world“. Cynthia describes in her post how she perceives regularities in complex systems, so called oscillations.

I like the post because it uses a really refreshingly simple and jargon-less language to talk about this characteristic of complex systems. Compared with other texts on complex systems, it’s fun reading and seeing oscillation and, connected to it, unpredictability in complex systems with different eyes.

Here an example:

Those leaves remind me of a conversation I had once with a person with whom I was discussing the differences between complicated and complex patterns. He said something like, “You say a complicated pattern repeats and a complex one doesn’t, right? But how do you explain the fact that complex patterns sometimes do repeat?” I said, “They repeat until they don’t.” What I meant was, when a leaf is oscillating, it looks like it’s connected to some perfectly engineered device governed by a mechanical timer. But that’s an illusion that bursts when the leaf suddenly stops. Complicated patterns repeat because somebody or something made them repeat. They stop repeating when somebody or something stops them repeating, or when they break down and need to be fixed (after which they repeat again, if somebody or something makes them). Complex patterns repeat because they started repeating, and they stop repeating because they’ve stopped repeating. Keep in mind, of course, that the patterns we see in our world are rarely purely complex or complicated. Even those oscillating leaves I see out of my window have been influenced by the complicated design of the house that separates us.

What does ‘systemic’ actually mean?

“We need more systemic approaches!” This claim has gained some traction in the development world. Everybody is talking about how to make development approaches more ‘systemic’. A quick internet research reveals quite a number of results related to development organizations: USAID, USAID, CGAP, GIZGIZ, GIZ, and SDC. Continue reading

Syntesis paper out now: Monitoring and measuring change in market systems

I am really happy to announce the publication of the Synthesis Paper of the so called ‘Systemic M&E’ initiative. The paper is the synthesis of conversations that started in MaFI in June 2010 and a series of online and in-person conversations that took place in the second half of 2012. It captures the voices of practitioners, academics, donors and entrepreneurs who are trying to find better ways to monitor and evaluate the influence of development projects on market systems and learn more, better and faster from their interventions. Continue reading