Author – Sharon Varney
Book discussed – 8 February 2022
Review by – Mae Keary
A well-researched book on complexity theory, which has practical applications for leaders at all levels in organisations. The main aims of the book have been achieved, which are to address problems of leadership and change, and to use insights from complexity science to help executives, managers, and other professionals to apply complexity thinking. Models are used to illustrate and inform good leadership and change practices.
The book progresses from theory to practical applications. Part I invites you to see the world and your position in it differently, with Chapters 1-3 helping you to get to grips with complexity science. Part II introduces principles and practices of learning informed leadership, to engage with the dynamic patterning of organisational life, and opening your mind to engage with more real-world complexity. Chapters 5-6 deal with noticing what is changing, particularly, the power of small, human scale data as opposed to big data.
Part III explores the more personal aspects of leadership in complexity and change – ways of using self to deepen and broaden the complexity of mind and practical judgement. Thus chapters 7 – 9 summarises theories espoused earlier in the book in a practical way. An understanding of dynamic patterning is a key technique to take from Varney’s book – how to cope with the continuous changes of complex systems, plus the ability to engage with current situations simultaneously. The book is a challenging read and offers well thought out insights into the science of uncertainty. There is a useful glossary, and a helpful index.