Faced with ever-increasing complexity on a daily basis, the decision-makers of today are struggling to find the appropriate models, methods and tools to face the issues arising in complex systems across all levels of global operations.
Having, in the past, resorted to outdated approaches which limit problem-solving to linear world views, we must now capitalize on complexities in order to succeed and progress in our society.
This book provides a guide to harnessing the wealth inherent to complex systems. It organizes the transition to complex decision-making in all business spheres while providing many examples in various application domains.
The authors offer fresh developments for understanding and mastering the global "uberization" of the economy, the post-modern management of computer-assisted production and the rise of cognitive robotics science applications.
1. The Foundations of Complexity.
2. Evidencing Field Complexity.
3. The New "Complex" Operational Context.
4. Taking Up Complexity.
5. Tackling Complexity with a Methodology.
6. Management and Control of Complex Systems.
7. Platforms for Taking up Complexity.
8. Applying Intrinsic Complexity: The Uberization of the Economy.
9. Computer-assisted Production Management.
10. Complexity and Cognitive Robotics.
Why do we need to look at complexity?
When complexity is a part of everyone's daily experience, what is more fitting than a book that aims to process this "complexity"? When catastrophes of every kind appear on the media screens in our homes, it may be useful to question the true meaning of the word "catastrophe". According to some, the term means chaos and disorganization; it can also mean, for example, the return to rest of a vibrating musical string as per the laws of mechanical resonance. Likewise, it may be equally useful to contemplate on the true meaning of the word "chaos": in the beginning chaos is not differentiated from divine thought and is, in a way, the matrix of a future yet to become, as well as an opening on new ways of thinking.
In order to better understand the scope of this issue, it is worth recalling the historical approach as employed by Science since the 17th Century, when Descartes published the "Discourse of Method", which serves as the foundation of modern rationalism and its ongoing development. From a scientific point of view, this "classical" way of thinking is based on the fact that the world is a rational, mathematical, knowable and decomposable quantity. On the literary level, an examination of "classical" dramaturgy reveals the rule for three key devices (time, place and action). Notable playwrights whose oeuvres follow this stagecraft doctrine are Boileau, Corneille, Racine, etc. Essentially, these principles advocate that everything can be systematized, decomposed and organized, and is recognized as the basis for the great progresses in knowledge and the management of systems. They continue to permeate the overall scientific approach, which is characteristically fragmented, isolated and centralized.
However, this concept and essence of Truth reaches its own limitations, as it inevitably leads to a hierarchical organization that limits our abilities and potentials for research and engineering, at times juxtaposed, and is responsible for creating inherently fixed spaces with reduced freedoms, which deny multidisciplinary cooperation, consultation and synergy. As such there are many opportunities for development and problem resolution.
Hence, the cultural heritage of the past has not predisposed us to the current socio-economic transformations created by globalization, as it is applied to other contexts and approaches, and which is already changing towards a single-system approach, often referred to as the holistic approach.
What does this book claim?
The contribution of Complexity Science is, in a sense, an attempt to rebalance the classical analytical approach and its particular limitations. This can be seen to be made up of individual perceptions that together become the complementary polar, thereby allowing for a global understanding of the world, our systems and our societal behaviors.
While this complement has become as important as the Cartesian approach (i.e. the analytical approach) to our context, it has also become increasingly urgent. Everything around us pushes us to review our patterns, to enlarge and to stretch them to the point of breaking our educational, behavioral and structural limits. It has become essential to understand the Global and to propose a new path based on connectionism and self-organization. The Global is before us, within us, within our reach and on our scale; it is the awareness of factors that we have so far hidden from ourselves. "How long does a fly live?" A life. And Pieng-Tsou, the oldest man in the world? Also a life". (Shipper). It is our deafness to the relationships between entities and the factors that connect phenomena, which has unintentionally limited science and engineering so far.
This book proposes to open a door. Without negating all the progress made so far, it is the authors' belief that the time has come to give prominence to a conscious and reasoned apprehension of the Global and the role it plays in our socio-economic lives. Our aim is to introduce a new paradigm, which we have experimented on with concrete case studies, and to establish a preliminary set of scientific and technological bases. That said, this book does not aim to be a theoretical or scientific contribution and is rather intended for all those wishing to broaden their practice of management and engineering systems. As such it has been written for engineers and technicians, strategists and planners, managers, researchers, teachers, and students. It is but a first step, carrying with it the hope that it might inspire hitherto unknown advancements, as well as engage other authors to grapple with this valuable appreciation of complexity and its many applications on the ground.
By writing this book.
The history behind the genesis of a work is sometimes most unexpected. Since the 1970s, both of the authors have been situated within the industry, and have been involved with the creation of new technologies, privileged to experience each phase of the great wave that is artificial intelligence. One of the authors has spearheaded multiple projects investigating the limitations of knowledge, research that was conducted at IBM France, for Networks and Telecommunications at the La Gaude Research and Development Center, for large-scale computer systems at the Pompignane plant near Montpellier, and finally, with IBM Europe in charge of research and development projects to improve the competitiveness of the group's R&D plants and centers. As such, over the latter part of the last century, he has coordinated large teams comprised of more than 60 people. The other author was formerly employed at IBM's San Jose Research Laboratory in California, then at the La Gaude Research and Studies Center, after which he became involved with an artificial intelligence start-up, and ran the R&D management for a subsidiary of THOMSON-CSF, where he oversaw the portfolio for advanced artificial intelligence projects in line with the European Commission in Brussels. As such he is reputed as an expert member on numerous European commissions concerned with complex approaches, and is a specialist in designing breakthrough innovations pertinent to the complex processes involved.
Neither author came across the Complexity Sciences by chance. After having met over the application of neural software networks in the late 1980s, it was not until the 1990s when the "era of networks" became irrevocably established, and with it the associated frustration brought about by increasingly complicated computing systems, that the real connection happened. Their paths then separated, with one choosing to terminate a long career as Head of Research at IBM in the field of Complexity and the Transfer of Technologies in Industry at the Ecole des Mines d'Alès (EMA) in Nîmes; and the other embracing a career with the European Commission, and later working as an international contractor and consultant. At this pivotal point, they were struck by the acceleration of transformations within the industry, and became convinced that it was mostly due to the quality of interrelations between previously isolated elements. This progression, they felt, would need to mature in the years to come. As privileged observers, users and internal actors of the various instruments implemented in the planning and conduct of European research and development, and framework programs for more than 20 years, the authors noted a growing incongruity, the novelty without appeal of conventional systems strategies, the limitations of top-down planning and monitoring. A new dynamic in the markets appeared by way of a transdisciplinary sidelong perspective. Success stories emerged less from structured bureaucracies and more from the mass market, a growing arena that connects all the actors in a hectic agora with a seemingly irrepressible capacity for innovation. In short, systems were no longer the solution. They had become the problem.
In terms of networking the citizens of the world, any organization not able to operate at the level of intensity and adaptation of its actors is rendered null and void. But how to explain this general sense to our customers? How can they free themselves from the obstacles to their own innovation, from the structural obstacles to their competitiveness, often generated by themselves in an earlier era? Little by little we had the same idea, to write this book, to bring forward the elements of a strategy for change and to make these accessible to all organizations and companies.
With the good fortune of a rich research heritage of the first magnitude, spanning more than 30 years, we have developed a method for developing and launching "global applications". The intention was not to develop an academic work, but rather to focus on setting up methodological bases, validating and refining this new discipline, as consultants and entrepreneurs, to play our part in the global management practices of companies, organizations and consultancies, to help managers identify and model, internalize and innovate, in a word, to experience the crucial decisions tied to their "global apps" of tomorrow. Without a comprehensive approach, there will only be failures and ruination on the path to business success. The maxim "Think globally to act locally" led to our own motto: "Formulate globally to decide locally".
Having interviewed managers, companies and administrations, we examined their organizational structures and their successes and failures:...