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Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business
 
 

Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business [Kindle Edition]

Richard Pascale , Mark Milleman , Linda Gioja
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"Great storytelling, experience-based insight, and effortless prose convey a compelling message: Leading the talent-driven, distributed enterprise is the management challenge of the knowledge economy. The answers lie in complexity science, which provides relevant insights into the workings of living systems. Surfing the Edge of Chaos is the Rosetta stone, translating between real-world problems and exciting, illuminating theory. Pascale, Millemann and Gioja have at last made practical the idea of organization as organism."
-- Christopher Meyer, Director, The Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Center for Business Innovation, and author of BLUR: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy and Future Wealth

"Surfing the Edge of Chaos is a breakthrough book, achingly relevant for the New Millennium, by synthesizing new developments from the life sciences, social sciences, and physical sciences into an exciting framework that will help organizations and their leaders thrive and revitalize themselves in this post-modern, hypo-turbulent era. It has the added advantage of rendering subtle and complex ideas into readable prose by refracting the ideas through the prism of real-life organizations. This book will be must reading for any serious executive or student of organizational change."
-- Warren Bennis, University Professor and Founding Chairman of the Leadership Institute, University of Southern California, and author of Managing the Dream

"Surfing the Edge of Chaos is an action plan for bringing organizations to life and life to organizations. An organization is a living system that must adapt to a changing environment -- the same as species in nature. Thinking of a company as a 'well-oiled machine' or of yourself as a cog in that machine is a recipe for extinction. Richard Pascale, Mark Millemann, and Linda Gioja provide exciting new ways to think about the professional and personal challenges everyone faces today."
-- Prof. Gary Hamel, author of Leading the Revolution and coauthor of Competing for the Future; Visiting Professor, London Business School; and Chairman of Strategos

"Grounded in both theory and practice, Surfing the Edge of Chaos helps any manager facing change to replace equilibrium and the status quo with innovation and self-renewal. The links drawn between the world of nature and the world of business form a particularly rich source of ideas for turning complexity and chaos into resolve and results."
-- Dave Ulrich, Professor of Business, University of Michigan, and author of Results-Based Leadership

Kurzbeschreibung

Every few years a book changes the way people think about a field. In psychology there is Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence. In science, James Gleick's Chaos. In economics and finance, Burton Malkiel's A Random Walk Down Wall Street. And in business there is now Surfing the Edge of Chaos by Richard T. Pascale, Mark Millemann, and Linda Gioja.

Surfing the Edge of Chaos is a brilliant, powerful, and practical book about the parallels between business and nature -- two fields that feature nonstop battles between the forces of tradition and the forces of transformation. It offers a bold new way of thinking about and responding to the personal and strategic challenges everyone in business faces these days.

Pascale, Millemann, and Gioja argue that because every business is a living system (not just as metaphor but in reality), the four cornerstone principles of the life sciences are just as true for organizations as they are for species. These principles are:

Equilibrium is death.
Innovation usually takes place on the edge of chaos.
Self-organization and emergence occur naturally.
Organizations can only be disturbed, not directed.

Using intriguing, in-depth case studies (Sears Roebuck, Monsanto, Royal Dutch Shell, the U.S. Army, British Petroleum, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems), Surfing the Edge of Chaos shows that in business, as in nature, there are no permanent winners. There are just companies and species that either react to change and evolve, or get left behind and become extinct.
Some examples:

Parallels between Yellowstone National Park and Sears show why equilibrium is a dangerous place in both nature and business.
How Monsanto used a "strange attractor" to move to the edge of chaos to alter its identity and transform its culture.
The unlikely story of how the U.S. Army embraced the ideas of self-organization and emergence.
Why the misapplication of linear logic (reengineering a business or attempting to eradicate predators in nature) will inevitably fail.

The stories in Surfing the Edge of Chaos are of pioneering efforts that show how the principles of living systems produce bottom-line impact and profound transformational change. What's really striking about them, though, is their reality. They are about success and failure, breakthroughs and dead-ends. In short, they are like the business you are in and the challenges you face.


From the Hardcover edition.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen "Exhilerating, rewarding, and crucial" 8. September 2007
Von Donald Mitchell TOP 500 REZENSENT
Format:Taschenbuch
"'Living systems' isn't a metaphor for how human institutions operate. It's the way it is." The book is built on this point. Living systems work much more rapidly and effectively than most human ones do. By using the most successful living systems as models, we can make great strides in improving our human organizations. Think of this as a best practice book based on the ants and the bees.

Surfing the Edge of Chaos is an unusually good book on applying the lessons of complexity science about the biological world to business progress. The material is aimed at continuous renewal of the large existing organization, but will be valuable to organizations of all ages and sizes. The explanations of the key principles are well documented with many interesting animal and business examples. Based on experience by the authors as advisors to most of the businesses cited, the stories have a depth and a resonance that is missing in many books about how to apply the lessons of "complex adaptive systems" to human organizations.

The book also strongly and effectively challenges the existing engineering and reengineering models of how to improve organizations. If you are about to put a lot of effort into these areas, hold up until you have a chance to read this book. You may well change your mind.

Many people tell me that they still do not understand what they need to do in order to apply the lessons of complexity science to their business after reading books on this subject. Few will have that problem after reading this excellent work.

The authors help make the transition between the mechanical model of organizations to a biological one by synthesizing four new principles:

(1) "Equilibrium is a precursor to death.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 von 5 Sternen  13 Rezensionen
21 von 25 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Must Read 1. März 2001
Von J. Michael Gallipo - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Surfing the Edge of Chaos does a marvelous job of taking many of the ideas being developed in complexity theory and applying them to the business world. In contrast say to Garrett Ralls who tried to do much the same thing, this book succeeds. I found myself continually thinking about not only the examples they provide, but also on my own work experiences and other companies that I have analyzed.
The authors do an excellent job of contrasting their approach (adaptive leadership) with more traditional reorganization (operational leadership). But refreshingly, they also acknowledge that in some cases, the more traditional approach might be more appropriate. There are many interesting concepts being developed by complexity theorists and this book manages to capture many, if not most, of them.
They show repeatedly the need to increase the stress on an organization in order to break past patterns of behavior. Their use of fitness landscapes (the idea that a successful company rests on a peak, and that in order to reach a new higher peak, often you must go down into the valley) is very powerful and at least partially explains why so many successful companies subsequently struggle, or fail, to adapt. Importantly though, the authors also spend a great deal of time talking about the unintended (or second and third order) effects of change. The point is not that you will be able to predict all of them (which is what chaos theory explicity says you cannot do), but rather that you must be flexible enough to roll with those unanticipated consequences.
Does that mean that every idea in this book is new? Of course not, but to be successful, a new theory often must combine the old with the new. And this book does a masterful of applying the ideas of Chaos/Complexity theory to business, of providing a new framework to think about both old and new problems. You may not agree with everything that appears in this book, but you will certainly come away with much food for thought.
17 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Belongs on your list of books on chaos 29. Januar 2001
Von Glenn A. Carleton - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
In the process of reading a number of related books on chaos and complex adaptive systems, Surfing in the Edge is one on my current list. It compliments well other readings, and in many cases quotes meaningfully from them (e.g., Haeckel's - Adaptive Enterprises; Kelly - New Rules for the New Economy; McMaster - Intelligence Advantage).
I found this book an easy read, constantly underlining sentences and putting the book down to reflect on what was said and my own past experiences. I could see why my past approaches to management and motivation (especially reward systems which the book discusses in depth), described here as being used even by management considered open and progressive, was not successful, or if successful, not sustainable.
Anyone looking for specific answers on what organizational approaches should be used to take advantage of the concepts behind chaos should perhaps focus on this book's emphasis of things being messy, emerging in ways we cannot predict, and the experience of generating change not being straight forward (Herding Butterflies). If one can have faith that in the designed sloppiness, good things can be emerging, that faith could help one and other true believers stay the course without returning to command-and-control methods. It takes a whole new mindset to create the kind of change described in this book, and it takes a degree of critical mass in gaining converts who will in good faith implement the precepts over what could be a long period of time. The need for patience is well explained in the book.
The book is clearly not into the biology view of allowing just anything to emerge on its own. Boundaries and interventions are clearly proscribed here as needing to be taken, something very difficult to judge what they should be in a particular situation, but the guiding principles should generate dialogue and reflection from those attempting to design organizations for emergence.
This book does an outstanding job of continually discussing our tendencies to go for optimization as the end goal. In many cases, as described in this book, what we focus on to optimize eventually causes the problem because there are so many ways the efforts can be sabotaged. Those who tend to continually optimize tend to take the traditional approach of assuming predictability of future events (thus assuming few changes will take place as plans are implemented), and as managers having the answers to be imposed on an organization waiting for guidance. This book gives wonderful advice on just what management can and cannot do without the eyes and ears of the masses on the front line where the real change is taking place; it is truly humbling but exhilarating to think of the potential that can be unleashed in organizations if managers will see themselves as designers for emergence.
Wonderful case studies. Normally I tend to gloss over case studies, but those in this book are important, in part because assumed successes later deteriorated and returned to poor results of the past. This awareness alone makes the book worth reading; no organization can assume whatever it is doing right is sustainable. Gains can be reversed much faster than the time it took to get the initial gains.
On page 202, a diagram/framework is proposed, and then described. Harnessing Complexity, by Axelrod, has its own framework. I think the importance is to read these books, take what inspires, and let them all merge into your way of thinking about organizations and motivating people to change how they work together. For those who agree, this book clearly belongs on the list of references where the author has does the homework, and is attempting to clarify a subject that is highly abstract, and one where most organizations will not willingly allocate time to consider or apply its principles. Some organizations have no chance of applying these concepts; some organization only need a worthy sponsor. Sponsors need meaty material to study so they can speak within their organization with credibility, and have references that can direct others to read.
In my view, this book reflects a whole new paradigm gaining momentum of how to best create organizations capable of adapting to the fast changing new economy. It make take a number of years before the wisdom becomes commonplace in practice, and then we move on to the next level of sophistication. One day we will likely be looking back and marveling how, as we do today with Fredrick Taylor, we could have for generations tapped human talent by deploying the command-and-control techniques that still dominate the corporate landscape. I cannot imagine the concepts in these books being one day written as another fad that died.
31 von 41 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen "Exhilerating, rewarding, and crucial" 20. Oktober 2000
Von Donald Mitchell - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
"'Living systems' isn't a metaphor for how human institutions operate. It's the way it is." The book is built on this point. Living systems work much more rapidly and effectively than most human ones do. By using the most successful living systems as models, we can make great strides in improving our human organizations. Think of this as a best practice book based on the ants and the bees.
Surfing the Edge of Chaos is an unusually good book on applying the lessons of complexity science about the biological world to business progress. The material is aimed at continuous renewal of the large existing organization, but will be valuable to organizations of all ages and sizes. The explanations of the key principles are well documented with many interesting animal and business examples. Based on experience by the authors as advisors to most of the businesses cited, the stories have a depth and a resonance that is missing in many books about how to apply the lessons of "complex adaptive systems" to human organizations.
The book also strongly and effectively challenges the existing engineering and reengineering models of how to improve organizations. If you are about to put a lot of effort into these areas, hold up until you have a chance to read this book. You may well change your mind.
Many people tell me that they still do not understand what they need to do in order to apply the lessons of complexity science to their business after reading books on this subject. Few will have that problem after reading this excellent work.
The authors help make the transition between the mechanical model of organizations to a biological one by synthesizing four new principles:
(1) "Equilibrium is a precursor to death."
(2) "In the face of threat, or when galvanized by a compelling opportunity, living things move toward the edge of chaos. This condition evokes higher levels of mutation and experimentation, and fresh solutions are likely to be found."
(3) "When this excitation takes place, the components of living systems self-organize and new forms and repertoires emerge from the turmoil."
(4) "Living systems cannot be directed along a linear path. Unforeseen consequences are inevitable. The challenge is to disturb them in a manner that approximates the desired outcome."
Fascinating examples are drawn from the exploration unit of British Petroleum, Hewlett-Packard, Monsanto's refocus into biotechnology, Royal Dutch/Shell's downstream activities, Sears' refocus of its store activities, and the U.S. Army's approach to war gaming to illustrate these principles. One of the things I liked about the examples is that they pointed out the errors that the organizations made, as well as the successes. In most cases, the companies only partially converted to following these principles. You will also learn about African termites, South American fire ants, North American coyotes, and fires at Yellowstone as examples of these principles, as well. The book is also strengthened by many mini-examples of applying complexity science such as Cemex dispatching roving cement trucks and British Telecom doing the same with service trucks to emulate ant pheromone track models in order to provide better service at lower cost.
The book's strength though lies in its proposition of 7 core disciplines of how to use complexity science. These disciplines will help many to begin applying complexity science lessons for the first time. There is also a good discussion of what leaders need to do to assist in supporting the needed revolutions and evolutions for maximum development. It would be unfair to the book to attempt to summarize these ideas here, but I certainly endorse them based on my consulting experience.
After you finish reading this book, I strongly urge you to follow the example of the town meetings described in the book to launch an assessment and begin a process of adaptive leadership in your organization. You will learn much more by practicing with what is in the book than by just thinking about the material.
I also leave you with a challenge. After you have been applying this approach for a while, how can you change your company's orientation so that these organizational processes will constantly emerge in highly effective ways? In other ways, how can you place yourself in the center of the wave's curl where the ride is best all the time? For when you do, your progress will be irresistible.
17 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Shoddy science research 1. Oktober 2003
Von Jeff Runyan - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
"Businesses...can learn a great deal from nature (p 3)". I wholeheartedly agree, but unfortunately this book does not deliver.
The business research appears well done, but the science reserach that is supposedly it backing up is abysmal. The impression this book has left me is that the writers started with their theories and then handpicked some scientific anecdotes and (sometimes erroneous) generalities to support some of their claims, while other claims (like the Law of Requisite Variety) have no substantiation from the life sciences attempted. This is a backwards approach; I would have liked to see the authors examine the scientific research and then see what the business implications are.
Three examples of erroneous generalities:
1. Endemic island organisms just "tweaking the status quo" (in reality, this is where the greatest diversity happens; its the 'weedy' organisms like starlings and dandelions that adapt by just 'tweaking'). (And I will try to ignore the goof about the dodo being from the South Pacific).
2. The idea that cooperation and altruism are major forces that organisms "seek" (in reality, these have been discovered to be incidental effects).
3. Equating the idea that 'every molecule in the human body replaces itself via genetic instructions' with the idea that 'human and corporate bodies are rejuvenated by fresh and varied genetic material'. Those are two very opposed statements.
There is so much biological research that has major implications for organizational research that is lacking here: Memetics and primate social systems are two in particular.
To conclude: The authors apparently have a poor grasp of the biological sciences, so that means their attempts at backing up their claims with biological reserach is suspect at best.
19 von 26 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Highly Over Rated 5. November 2000
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Pascale et.al. dust off the same tired case studies that have been chewed to mush in business publications for years and attempt to give them a new spin. If baseline for information on chaos and complexity theory is the business press, actual new content is negligible in this highly over rated book. For executives who don't have time to stay current, reading this loose collection of anecdotes is not the easiest nor the most interesting method of becoming informed on this engaging topic. And if you are looking for a toolkit, this is not the book for you.
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&quote;
The Law of Requisite Variety, an obscure but important law of cybernetics, states that the survival of any system depends on its capacity to cultivate (not just tolerate) variety in its internal structure.2 Failure to do so will result in an inability to cope successfully with variety when it is introduced from an external source. &quote;
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Living systems cannot be directed along a linear path. Unforeseen consequences are inevitable. The challenge is to disturb them in a manner that approximates the desired outcome. &quote;
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As a general rule, adults are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting. &quote;
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