complicated → complex → chaotic 

 January 16, 2023

"The era of complexity is passing. We have to learn to deal with chaos!"

Richard Seidl

One could think that the universe does this on purpose to show us up. Just at the time when man is at the peak of his complacency, proud of himself, to have subjugated everything so beautifully and to be able to control it, it shows us where the hammer hangs. Now that we have been able to capture and solve even complex problems, the next level comes: chaos. Uncontrollable viruses, climate collapse and geopolitical crises that were not even thought possible today. Perhaps we are not the crown of creation after all, but simply part of the whole. Be that as it may, we must learn to deal with chaos. But let's start at the beginning. Back when everything was simple. Well, maybe not quite simple, but ...


Cause. Effect. Turn here. Then this happens. Yes, it used to be that simple. Long before the time of the software industry, but also at its beginning. Engineers, architects and specialists designed on the drawing board, calculated and planned. Structure and hierarchy. And that worked. The great time of the automators, optimizers, documenters and standardizers, who removed the last My of inefficiency from the processes. And we in Central Europe were also very good at this.


Then it became complex. Perhaps the Internet was to blame. Everything began to network. Globally around the world to locally into the company. All systems talk to all systems. Hierarchies no longer worked. Turn here ... but what happens now? Oh, over there! Control and management only worked on a small scale. Short feedback loops to quickly adapt the plan and react to impacts. Reflection on the action again and again. Sailing on sight on the rough sea. Standardizers have been replaced by Scrum masters and rituals, and there is hardly a company today that has not already strapped on an agile framework. This doesn't always run smoothly, especially when some still defend the familiar "complicated" solutions. But here, too, there is no resting on one's laurels, because it will ...


High instability and vulnerability. Fragile connections. Interrelationships are now not only unpredictable, but also unexplainable in retrospect through reflection. Many things are no longer comprehensible. Sailing on sight is no longer possible - the fog is too thick. And now?

Good question. We will have no choice but to explore this together. I'm not sure that our "complicated" and "complex" structures can evolve to handle chaos. After all, we are seeing right now that our political and social structures are coping more poorly than well with pandemics, global crises and climate collapse and are trapped in their world. Companies are also transforming themselves into the complex context only with a lot of energy and time.

But we will solve this. Less with AI, but with the unconscious competence of humans. I also believe that methodological frameworks will no longer help us here. Instead, I could imagine that we rely more on intuition, flow and empathy. On the present moment and what it takes right now. What some people might already define as an agile attitude, away from rituals and process models.

It will definitely be exciting. Maybe even exhausting. But definitely instructive. I'm looking forward to it!