Complexity – I’d rather be vaguely right than precisely wrong

Silicon Cape
10 Oct 2009

I just read Jon Foster-Pedley’s brilliant blog on The New Creatives ( While we heard a good many things during the Silicon Cape Launch event that we need to create an environment that is conducive to entrepreneurship, that will attract the right people into the South Africa and into the Western Cape in particular, here you have some concrete insights on what it actually takes to make this happen.

And this is the crux of the matter – you can’t make it happen with any precision. You can only LET it happen. Sure, we all need to contribute to letting it happen. We all need to be the arbiters of the momentum that nudges the future into the correct direction. When dealing with complex systems on this scale with the intent of changing the social, legal, ecological, and whatever else parameters we mustn’t become overwhelmed by the sheer monstrosity of the task ahead.

Traditional strategy in the form of precise plans and execution has run its course. Emergent strategy is what we need. In complex environments, little nudges can have huge effects and sometimes these effects tumble the dice in our favour, directly towards the goal we want to achieve and sometimes into the opposite direction. That’s the nature of complexity. Sometimes side-effects are brought into existence, creative ripples and currents that influence things we considered to be unrelated–but as I said, it’s better to be vaguely right then to be precisely wrong.

The point is that we must be cognizant of these effects and not be hamstrung by our own fear that we’ll do the wrong thing or that we as individuals are too insignificant to make a difference. Every nudge counts. Here is a favourite passage of mine from a book I just read: “Everything that has happened … everything that ever will happen–is framework made up of countless connections of individual choices: yes or no, kill or spare, survive or die. They shape every moment for all eternity. One man’s decision matters. One being’s choices, moment by moment, connected to a network of billions of other choices, is all that existence is.

We heard Vinnie and Justin say – it wants to happen … let’s let it happen!

(Quote from Karen Traviss, 2008, Order 66, p3, Orbit, London)