A New Website about Resilience and Complexity

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I recently discovered People and Place, a new website for complexity mavens that is well worth a good look. Here's what the site says about itself:
About P&P

Some relationships are long familiar. Boy meets girl. Summer turns to fall. Other connections are newly recognized or scarcely affirmed. The DNA we share. The biosphere that supports all life.

What are the ties that draw people together and to place? How have these connections - and our understandings - evolved over time? What social-ecological relationships support a more reliable prosperity? How is meaningful change accelerated?

Part weblog, part web-based journal, People and Place hosts an inquiry on ideas that connect us.

Behind P&P

P&P publisher Ecotrust believes that our fundamental challenge is a broader understanding of the intimate relationship between the human condition and the health of all living systems.

The site has a close relationship with the Resilience Alliance. If the content of this first edition is a sign of what is to come, this site is certainly one to bookmark. For example, here is a bit of one of the featured articles--"Six Habits of Highly Resilient Organizations" by Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz.
Most companies live fast and die young. A study in 1983 by Royal Dutch/Shell found only 40 corporations over 100 years old. In contrast, they found that one-third of the Fortune 500s from 1970 were, at that time, already gone.

What differentiates success and failure, resilience and collapse? The Royal Dutch/Shell study emphasizes shared purpose and values, tolerance of new ideas, financial reserves, and situational awareness.

More recently, Ceridian Corporation collected best thinking and strategies to publish an executive briefing on organizational resilience. They highlighted the paradox that successful, resilient organizations are those that are able to respond to two conflicting imperatives:

  • managing for performance and growth, which requires consistency, efficiency, eliminating waste, and maximizing short-term results

  • managing for adaptation, which requires foresight, innovation, experimentation, and improvisation, with an eye on long-term benefits

Most organizations pay great attention to the first imperative but little to the second. Start-ups often excel at improvisation and innovation but founder on the shoals of consistent performance and efficiency. About half of all new companies fail during their first five years.

The image above is the adaptive cycle attributed to Buzz Hollings and his colleagues to describe the life cycle of typical living complex systems. It is described more fully in one of the site's internal links.
The figure of the adaptive cycle represents the growth, release and renewal of complex systems - from cells to ecosystems and human societies. During the slow, front phase of the cycle, connectedness and stability increase. The backloop represents a rapid phase of release and reorganization, which leads once again to a time of exploitation, or growth.
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