So Complicated

Published March 18, 2022 7:00 PM

Why are things so complicated? This is a question that used to hunt me. This question follows on the heals of the feelings of frustration and confusion when working through challenges in work, life and play. And when the path to navigating emerges from the chaos in balance, the path forward becomes infinitely more enjoyable.

As part of process (re)engineering, problem solving, or even planning a vacation, can begin by identifying all of the steps involved. The way to model the steps, is to put them into a flow chart, swim lane, journey map, schedule, or any number of two dimensional modelling, and identify all the activities, decision points, and actors that are involved in the process.

These steps occur in parallel, asynchronously, tangentially, and intersect in many different ways that cannot be accurately reflected in the current modeling tools. This experience of the gap between what actually happens and what is illustrated on a flow chart, creates frustration and a false sense of clarity.

Why are things so complex? The simple answer is, because they are. A fractal is a great way to illustrate how complex our world is.

What does this pretty picture of infinitely repeating mathematical equations have to do with you and me? It demonstrates that there are repeating patterns within a very complex system. Systems thinking, especially, chaos systems thinking, can help make sense of reality, and bring balance between what may appear to be conflicting realities.

In this illustration, as an individual, this simplistic illustration shows the different dynamics that occur for each of us.

The "I" is the individuals existential and experiential domain. The "I2", is the reflective and introspective relationship that the individual has with self. Being able to observe the "I", creates a self and observer relationship, or "I-I" = "I2". The "W" is the entity of one or more individuals that is the existential quality of this new entity called "We". The "W2" is the expanded, self reflective relationship that the "We" has with itself and able to be in the "We" and at the same time observe the "We".

This two dimensional representation of the dynamics of an individual person and with their significant other, and another couple that they are friends with. Each person experiences the "We" in their own unique way as well as able to observe the "We" as a "We", or the "We-We" = "W2".

Each domain now has a n!/(n-r)! Number of permutations of how they can interact.

And expand this even further, take a look at this same experience, with 3 people, each with their own experience of their individuality, the experience of the "We" that now comprises of 3 individuals. With a fourth individual, it begins to look even more chaotic, and patterns start to arise from the chaos.

As the illustration gets increasingly complex, it starts to resemble a fractal. This demonstrates that humans are nonlinear, multi dimensional beings. Being made aware of this of this pattern that started with just an individual, can expand infinitely to show the many interrelated complexities each of you experiences moment by moment.

As messy and interrelated this picture is, there is one more dimension that is missing. There is the W2 red to W2 green, W2 red to W2 blue, W2 green to W2 blue. Not illustrated is the "We" that is comprised of all three. What emerges is another entity. One that takes up the unique characteristics of three individuals that is the "We" of 3 and can reflect upon itself as a "We" of 3. A W3 emerges.

If reality is this complex, then how can we function with all these variables in play in every moment? Yet we do. Why is this important? Knowing that reality is this complex, those feelings of frustration, and confusion, that sometimes plague us when trying to make sense of the world, or address a complex problems in relationships, in our organizations, communities, and globally, all of a sudden, now make sense.

It is in accepting the multi-dimensional, and infinitely expanding complexities of reality, can we make holistic solutions to challenges that feel impossible. In the fractal, if you zoom in sufficiently, it'll look messy and no patterns arise. Zoom out far enough, there is beauty and balance in the chaos and appreciation of just how amazing humans are.

This reality has many applications as it relates to mental and social well-being, organizational excellence and leadership, and can be applied to any other topics such as the complexities of network theory and social media, intersectionality and complexities of racism, or just trying to plan a vacation with extended family.