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The Consolations of Complexity

Tom Morgan
October 01, 2022

The Consolations of Complexity

Learning about complexity has changed the way I think about what I do. It's helped me appreciate why certain ways of working feel more effective and more natural to me. It's helped me act (and not act) more decisively. It's helped me better understand the weird, sometimes irrational world of government. Above all, it's made me feel a whole lot better and more positive about stuff.

First given at SDinGov - 29th September 2022

Tom Morgan

October 01, 2022

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  1. the consolations of complexity @tsmz • a lot of time

    working on web things • a lot of time advocating for UCD • a lot of time failing to do it before 2015
  2. the consolations of complexity @tsmz • sense of purpose •

    lots of open goals for design • fit my skills & experience • the argument had been won
  3. complicated /ˈkɒmplɪkeɪtɪd/ adjective 1. consisting of many interconnecting parts or

    elements; intricate. "a complicated stereo system" complex /ˈkɒmplɛks/ adjective 1. consisting of many different and connected parts. "a complex network of water channels"
  4. It’s like the difference between, say, a Ferrari and the

    Brazilian rainforest. Ferraris are complicated machines, but an expert mechanic can take one apart and reassemble it without changing a thing. The car is static, and the whole is the sum of its parts. The rainforest, on the other hand, is in constant flux—a species becomes extinct, weather patterns change, an agricultural project reroutes a water source—and the whole is far more than the sum of its parts. This is the realm of ‘unknown unknowns,’ and it is the domain to which much of contemporary business has shifted.” — Dave Snowden “
  5. problems anyone could probably solve, admin & logistics problems I

    can solve using my knowledge of design, my skills and expertise as a designer. problems I solve with user-centred design, eg. user research, prototypes, hypotheses, iteration & co-design etc JFDI
  6. “The entire mound—insects plus structure—is thus a living thing: a

    self-regulating physiological and cognitive system, with a sense of its own boundaries, a memory, and a kind of collective intentionality.”
  7. the consolations of complexity @tsmz • my place within it

    • the work I was doing • the effect it would have
  8. we expect problems to be like dragons that once slain

    will leave us to live happily ever after
  9. the consolations of complexity @tsmz we cannot control the future

    so we must think differently about success
  10. the consolations of complexity @tsmz we might never know the

    effects we’ve caused, but we will always have an effect
  11. the consolations of complexity @tsmz the same cause could have

    a different effect, but also new opportunities to affect things will always arise
  12. the consolations of complexity @tsmz They are undoubtedly wrong but

    they have been useful in enabling me to maintain a little bit of that initial optimism and resilience in the face of the complexity of Government.