The limits of complexity

In our daily lives, we are engulfed with complexity. It is all around us: just think about business transactions, global trade, health care systems, jet engines, the energy grid, the tax code, computers, … Many would even add the remote control of their stereo or the radio in their car to that list.  Yet despite that almost permanent […]

How efficiency can kill you – in simple charts

In the previous post I’ve investigate the antagonistic relation between efficiency on one side and resilience on the other. As that is a pretty abstract subject, I tried to draw up a few simple charts to underpin the story of how efficiency, when taken to extremes, depletes resilience and ultimately promotes system failure. First, let’s think of a simple task, the […]

Efficiency will kill you slowly

Our western societies are obsessed with efficiency. Just think about topics like lean production, just-in-time logistics, energy consumption, time management: we are always trying to make things cheaper, to use less resources, to pack more action in less time, you name it. While these considerations are usually driven by good intent, I’d argue that they can pave the path to desaster […]

The dynamic ups and downs of human systems

No matter how hard we try to keep things simple and under control, many man-made systems turn out to to be – or to become over time – quite complex and unpredictable. Despite our effort. Against our intentions. In stark contrast to our preference for simple, linear, static, controllable, predictable systems. Computer software, stock markets and tax codes […]

On the unintended consequences of innovation policy …

My appreciation for Ian Morris and his big thinking has been woven into this blog already at a very early stage, as his writing provides a long-range historic context for social development in general, and I believe for innovation in particular. He has his finger on the pulse of society’s fundamental challenges, with his paradox of development eloquently paraphrasing society’s eternal […]