Complexity is everywhere, so try everything at once


Image: It’s complicated (and adaptive)…

Thinking about complexity again, the strategy that the best players use in complex adaptive systems use is to hedge their bets.

In Brands in Networks I talked about that from the perspective of brands needing to hedge their communications, have different creative and even strategies running to give them the best chance of success.

In Oliver Burkeman’s Guardian column I read about Rebecca Costa and her thinking about the increasing complexity in our personal life:

Any given solution won’t work, by definition: Costa defines complexity as when “there are many more wrong solutions than right ones”. Worse, they lull us into thinking we’re tackling the matter, so extinguishing the sense of urgency. (Are you eschewing plastic bags, imagining you’re “doing your bit” for the planet?) The only rational tactic may be trying everything at once – what Costa calls “parallel incrementalism” – in full knowledge that most methods will fail….

We need to think, Costa says, like venture capitalists, who make a fortune despite 80% of the businesses they invest in failing; they know that 20% won’t, but not which ones. For complex problems, trying one solution and getting upset when it fails is preposterous: any single solution is likely to fail. The mindset we need isn’t the positive-thinking mantra that failure is impossible; it’s that failures are inevitable, and for good reason. It’s an unexpectedly hopeful conclusion: we may never really understand how to get what we want, or stave off the very worst – yet we may manage it anyway.

I kind of like that approach…