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Letting companies live and breathe

Complexity, Ethics and Creativity Conference

Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 September 2003

What is complexity science? And what does it have to do with organisations? The Complexity, Ethics and Creativity Conference at LSE on 17 and 18 September 2003 aims to bring together academics, artists and business people to explore how complexity thinking can be applied to organisations and specifically how it can boost creative and ethical thinking.

The conference focuses around the idea of organisations-as-organisms, or 'complex evolving systems'. This way of viewing organisations is known as complexity theory, which first originated in the natural sciences and was developed by, among others, Ilya Prigogine, the Nobel prize-winning scientist who died in June this year.

Complexity theory involves a way of adapting and co-evolving within a constantly changing social ecosystem, which ensures sustainability. Key elements include creating enabling environments that help new ideas emerge and evolve, exploring the space of possibilities for continuous innovation, the self-organisation of staff, and stressing communication and feedback through dialogue.

Speakers at the LSE conference will include:

  • Terry Stock, human resources director of Rolls Royce Marine, will be discussing the difference complexity thinking has made to RRM, after working with the LSE Complexity Group for the past two years.
  • Roland Kupers, vice president of sustainable development at Royal Dutch/Shell Group. He said: 'Complexity, as it has developed over the past decades as a new discipline, can help organisational leaders gain insight into the dynamics of change within their companies. The challenges surrounding sustainable development require those leaders to look at the interconnections between their companies, societies and the eco-systems in a new light.'
  • Peter Fryer, former Humberside Training and Enterprise Council chief, who also put complexity ideas into practice over a five year period, with remarkable results.
  • John Casti from the Santa Fe Institute who is well known for his books on complexity and his modelling of the insurance industry, using agent-based modelling and simulations, as well as his work with Sainsbury's.
  • Artist Julian Burton will also be attending. His pictures help companies visualise complexity for their staff.   

Leading the conference is Professor Eve Mitleton-Kelly, director of the LSE Complexity Group. She said: 'Being creative and being ethical are major assets in your long-term survival. These academic theories underpin very practical applications that can result in more sustainable businesses. This conference is a real opportunity to take complexity thinking further.'




Conference details so far:
17 September

  • 9.45am Peter Corning, Institute for the Study of Complex Systems, Palo Alto, USA. The Basic Problem is Still Survival, and an Evolutionary Ethics is Indispensable
  • 11.15am Alfredo Capote, ITESM, Mexico, and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for IBM, Latin-America. E-transformation - a Threat or an Opportunity for Human Beings? 
  • 2pm Roland Kupers, Vice President Sustainable Development Royal Dutch/Shell. Sustainability, Innovation and Complexity: the dynamics of implementing sustainable development objectives in a company
  • 3pm Paul Cilliers, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Do modest positions have to be weak? Complexity, Knowledge and Responsibility

18 September 2003

  • 9.45am Terry Stock, HR Director, Rolls-Royce Marine and Eve Mitleton-Kelly, director, Complexity Research Programme, LSE and OU. Dealing with issues of complexity and cultural diversity in Rolls-Royce Marine.
  • 11.15am John Casti, Santa Fe Institute. How History Happens, or Why the conventional Wisdom is 'Always' Wrong.
  • 2pm Peter Fryer, former CEO of Humberside TEC. Transforming the Ugly Duckling - Practical Applications of Complexity in the Workplace
  • Irene McAra-McWilliam - Arts Parallel Session - professor of interaction design, Royal College of Art. Innovating a Culture of Creativity.

Updated 6 August 2003