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Michael Crichton and complexity science

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —January 8, 2006
Filed in Communication, Culture

He is much taller than he looksHere is a set of videos of Michael Crichton (author of Jurassic Park and other techo-thrillers) presenting at The Smithsonian Associates and The Washington Center for Complexity & Public Policy. His 60 minute talk (plus Q&A) focuses on the topics of fear, misguided predictions and the impossibility of managing the environment with a mindset of linearity. Using the environment as an example of the ultimate complex system, Crichton exposes the inadequacies of conceiving the environment as a predictable and stable system.

If you are wondering about the relevance of complexity thinking to your organisation, this presentation is a great introduction. Just substitute ‘the environment’ for ‘the name of any large organisation.’

Here are a few quotes which pricked my ears:

“To learn how to manage complex systems takes humility.”

“To manage complex systems takes the ability to admit we are wrong and to change course.”

“If you manage a complex system you are frequently if not always wrong.”

The video is divided into 8 parts. Background material is provided in parts 1–4 and his ideas on complexity start half way through part 4. Parts 7 and 8 are questions and answers. The video is a little wonky in parts but I’m glad the camera operator was able to include the presentation slides where appropriate.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

Thanks to Mary Alice Arthur for pointing me to this presentation.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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