The problem with complexity theory is that it’s complex. And abstract. And it tells us to consider that everything changes. Everything is complicated. There are multiple versions and perspectives of all things at all times. That no one thing operates in isolation from others. In such a way, it’s spot on. These are exactly the lessons I learned from RW Connell’s work on gender and masculinities in particular. The problem with systems thinking is that it’s hard to be systematic about viewing everything operating within systems. So I had a go at doing what all good former Organisational Development professionals should do: reshape other peoples’ work to create something new-ish. I hope it’s useful:
Put simply, everything is dynamic, complex, pluralistic and relational:
Dynamic: everything changes and is changing – when something appears static, that’s not an absence of influence, but a balance of antagonistic forces – it’s a result of a dynamic equilibrium
Complex: nothing is simple – the most seemingly obvious force may have highly sophisticated rationales, the most immediate motivation will most likely never be the only one; it may not even be the most important one
Pluralistic: every group of people will have a variety of perspectives and rationales; every situation will have multiple interpretations and perspectives; every concept comes in various forms; masculinities can be aggressive and protective, gentle and callous – people can be all of them, even in the same day
Relational: different factors interrelate, be that gender and power or relations between genders, everything is connected and influences – and is influenced by – other factors; past programmes, political contexts, reputations, expectations
Well, I’m glad to have added that to voluminous interpretations and guides varying from the short-sighted to the abstract beyond reality. So what’s the value in this? Well, it’s not a bad analytical lens to look at a lot of things. Contexts. Results. Relationships. If nothing else, I hope it provides a smidge of clarity. A platform to step more easily from, to help move from the broad concept of complexity and systems, to provide a few lenses to look situations with. It can be overwhelming to consider systems as webs: entities and connections, always moving and affecting each other. Perhaps start by looking at them one a time. Then bring them together because, after all, everything is DCPR.