Jay Cross helps people work and live smarter. Jay is the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning. He wrote the book on it. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix.

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WTF? Complexity.

posted on
August 12th, 2010

Once upon a time, the world was predictable. Isaac Newton had convinced us that every action resulted in an opposite and equal reaction. Rene Descartes thought and therefore, was. People made long-term plans. Logic ruled.

Then we realized that everything is connected. Outcomes result from the interplay of complex adaptive systems. Butterfly effects, asymmetry, and self organization abound. What emerges next is anybody’s guess. It’s time to shed the delusion that we are in control. Logic is oversimplification.

What’s a person to do when complexity turns our clockwork universe on its head? In a increasingly volatile environment, rigidity is suicidal. But how can we be flexible without being wishy-washy?

My colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance agree that we need to embrace complexity, not hide from it. Harold Jarche writes, “Few are bored with complex challenges.  The more people who are engaged creatively, the more effective the organization will be and no, there isn’t a course you can take to address this.”

The undisputed authority in this field is Dave Snowden. In October, he’s leading a series of one-day executive seminars on Leading Through Complexity: A New Simplicity.

I’m going to attend the San Francisco event. Perhaps a bunch of us will head out to dinner afterward to review what’s we’ve learned. This stuff is important but it’s never easy!

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