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Difference between Complex Adaptive Systems and Viable Systems Frameworks

posted Mar 21, 2017, 12:34 AM by John Oliver   [ updated Mar 21, 2017, 12:53 AM ]
I've been over the recent years fascinated by two constrasting publications, from Dave Snowden (A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making - Harvard Business Review and Patrick Hoverstadt (The Fractal Organisation - Wiley).

Robert Flood's "Rethinking the Fifth Discipline: Learning Within the Unknowable" is a cool third reference point.

They seem to have considerable overlap, yet coming from different perspectives. How can we make sense of this?

Consider the two entries from Wikipedia for the two above terms:
  • Complex Adaptive Systems:
    • A complex adaptive system is a "complex macroscopic collection" of relatively "similar and partially connected micro-structures" formed in order to adapt to the changing environment and increase its survivability as a macro-structure.
    • Key proponents, figures in the field: Dave Snowden
  • Viable Systems:
    • "Viable system theory (VST) concerns cybernetic processes in relation to the development/evolution of dynamic systems. They are considered to be living systems in the sense that they are complex and adaptive, can learn, and are capable of maintaining an autonomous existence, at least within the confines of their constraints. These attributes involve the maintenance of internal stability through adaptation to changing environments."
    • Key proponent, figures in the field: Stafford Beer process of being edited 21/03/17.