Newton’s ghost and management science

Isaac Newton

Last week I read an interesting journal article on how the scientific revolution started by Isaac Newton was not just constrained in the scientific domain, but became a cultural revolution as well. What started with Newton in the 17th century–the belief that the mysteries of the natural world can be conquered by rationality and reasoning–has guided much of human endeavours ever since, and … [Read more...]

The edge of chaos: Where complexity science meets organisational performance


One of the things I particularly like about viewing organisations through the lens of complexity science is that it does not just attempt to describe organisations, but it also prescribes how they should operate in order to maximise performance. There are two key concepts in this: fitness landscapes and the edge of chaos. Imagine a mountain range with many jagged peaks. Some are perhaps a … [Read more...]

Thinking, systems and performance


Earlier this week  I spotted a tweet by Hermanni Hyytiälä from Reaktor and it spurred me to write this article. It is a wonderfully simple illustration making the point that the systems we build are based on the type of thinking we hold, and these two combined lead to certain outcomes. When it comes to modern day organisations, the 'thinking' part is still firmly founded on the history of … [Read more...]

Notes from Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile


Antifragile by Nassim Taleb has to be one of the most interesting books I have read this year. It presents a plethora of concepts that are worth discussing, and carry meaning for one's personal life, as well as for business, society, and science. From this standpoint I paraphrased and extracted some of the topics that resonated with me the most when reading the book, and put them in a … [Read more...]

GMOs, complexity, and systemic risk

Sunset crops

There has been some good debate in a Finnish GMO-Awareness facebook group recently regarding both the pros and cons of GMOs. This has prompted me to participate as well, because I feel I have something specific to contribute to the discussion: the explanation of systemic risk. All living organisms are complex adaptive systems individually and also on an environmental and a species level. In … [Read more...]

How self-organisation works: An example


In my first attempt at video blogging I talk about self-organisation, which is a property of complex adaptive systems and explains how organisation and order can arise spontaneously. In self-organisation, individual entities form structures based upon simple, inherent properties that govern their interactions. For example, human social systems all operate under various guidelines such as morals … [Read more...]

On designing organisations

As I was doing the literature review for my MSc thesis this summer, reading about uncertainty, I got in my head the idea that I probably should check what has been written about complexity, as those two things seemed related. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. The result was some very exciting ideas and profound changes in my thinking. Getting myself familiar with articles by … [Read more...]

How to manage uncertainty in innovative projects


A week ago I finished the first full draft of my MSc thesis. The title is Managing uncertainty in innovative projects: The experimentation-driven approach. My basic argument is that uncertainty is essential for innovation - the more uncertain your project outcome is from the get-go, the more chances you have for creating something truly novel. Contrast this to a project where the outcome is a … [Read more...]

Positive psychology and public policy


In recent days there has been talk in Finland about whether or not the unemployed should be forced to take a 1.5 hour commute if that's what it takes to get a job. I find this to be a fantastic example of short-sightedness. It's hard to believe that those kinds of jobs would pay that well, which means that if this policy is adopted the resulting increase in GDP will be minuscule at best. The … [Read more...]

What 12-year old kids can teach you about innovation

Local kids playing ball at Lake Toba, Indonesia.

This spring I have been taking couple university courses on the Coursera online education platform. One was about gamification, or how to use concepts that are more familiar to us from different kinds of games in non-game contexts, in order to e.g. improve business performance or job satisfaction. The other course was about innovation, and one of the reading materials included this gem of a list … [Read more...]