What is complexity? If you ask the Google, it will give you all sorts of varied answers. The one I like best is Complexity is that which emerges from the fields of order and chaos. How does one define and measure complexity? According to Melanie Mitchell, of the Santa Fe Institute, “There is not yet a single science of complexity, but rather several different sciences of complexity with different notions of what complexity means” (Patton, 2011, p.147 ).

One way to lump all the disciplines together is to call complexity the Science of dynamics, which is the study of how things change. Uunderstanding complexity can begin by understanding dynamical concepts using the Cynefin Model of simple, complicated, complex, chaos. Cynefin (Kin-‘e-vin /ˈkʌnɨvɪn/) is a Welsh word, which is commonly translated into English as ‘habitat’ or ‘place’, although this fails to convey its full meaning. The term was chosen by the Welsh scholar Dave Snowden to describe a perspective on the evolutionary nature of complex systems, including their inherent uncertainty.


Complexity is very trendy right now. Folks are jumping on the complexity bandwagon and the scientific noosphere has become a complexity nerd’s paradise. The Santa Fe Institute has free online courses through its Complexity Explorer program. The twitterverse is teeming with complexity appreciators. The science is applicable to countless manners and combinations of  interdisciplines, and serves as a framework for inquiry and understanding of the wicked questions we face everyday.

Complexity is a way of seeing. It is steeped in beautiful metaphors and mapped out in mathematical models that serve as universal codes to understanding our reality. It is a deep, deep rabbit hole into which one might fall, so I will use upcoming articles as a proverbial parachute.


David Snowden and Peter Stanbridge (2004). The landscape of management: Creating the context for understanding social complexity. E:CO Special Double Issue Vol. 6 Nos. 1-2 2004 pp. 140-148


Michael Quinn Patton (2011). Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use. New York: Guilford Press.