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COMMplexity – Teaching


As complexity emerges in the field of communication, it becomes important to find ways to help people begin to understand complexity in real world settings. This page provides resources, information, and suggestions for how to teach complexity in organizations. 

Resources for Teaching

Visualizing complexity can help students see how complexity explains what is going on within organizations. As Dr. James Barker modeled in our Summer Scholar class, viewing organizations through a complexity lens means focusing on organizations as moving through time based on the relationships people have with organizational members. What are organizations moving towards? Their overall goal of value creation.

McKinsey & Company is a consulting company that works with many of the most influential businesses in the world. Through their Insights & Publications page, they provide some examples of real world --application and explanation of complexity for today's organizations.

McKinsey & Company: Insights and Publications
Putting Organizational Complexity In Its Place
Coping with Complexity

Complexity can be thought of as a more sophisticated application of systems theory. To help students distinguish between systems theory and complexity, check out this article by Schneider and Sommers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology which provides a comparison between systems theory and complexity for viewing leadership.

Organizations as Complex Adaptive Systems

Resources for Teaching Leadership from a Complexity Perspective

Boal, K., & Schultz, P. (2007). Storytelling, time, and evolution: The role of strategic leadership in complex adaptive systems. The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 411-428. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.04.008

Hazy, J., & Uhl-Bien, M. (2012). Changing the rules: The implications of complexity science for leadership research and practice. Retrieved from 

Lichtenstein, B., Uhl-Bien, M, Marion, R, Seers, A., Orton, J., & Schreiber, C. (2006). Complexity leadership theory: An interactive perspective on leading in complex adaptive systems. Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 8(4), 2-12. 

McKelvey, B. (2010). Complexity leadership: The secret of Jack Welch’s success. International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, 1(1), 4-36.

Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007). Complexity leadership theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 298-318. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.004.002

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Department of Communication
Phone: (701) 231-7705 • Fax: (701) 231-7784
Physical Address: Minard 338 • 1210 Albrecht Blvd. • Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing Address: Department #2310 • P.O. Box 6050 • Fargo, ND 58108

Last Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2018 9:50:27 AM
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