Author Archives: Chris Mowles

CMC 3-5th June 2022 – The theory of practice and the practice of theory.

There are still some places remaining for the 2022 Complexity and Management conference. You can book here.

One of the things that delegates always remark upon about the CMC is how refreshing it is to get straight into conversations that matter. You can do this from the moment you arrive: on Friday 3rd June @7pm in the evening you get to meet other delegates for an inaugural dinner from all kinds of practice backgrounds and from all over Europe.

On Saturday morning we have the renowned practice scholar Prof Davide Nicolini @NicoliniDavide who will talk about the importance of a practice orientation in theory.

The afternoon is given over to delegates to talk about dilemmas in the workplace using each other as a resource to think further.

Early Saturday evening there will be a tree-planting ceremony to commemorate the life and work of the late Prof Ralph Stacey, who founded the Doctor of Management programme and the conference, and who loved Roffey Park.

There will be more more lively conversation accompanied by great food on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning we will respond to the key note and themes which have arisen during our discussions on Saturday.

Then there is one more round of reflection until lunch and close at 12.30 on Sunday.

Look forward to seeing you there.

Just 5 days left to claim your early-bird discount -Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022

When we talk about the theory of practice and the practice of theory, does this mean that the conference is going to be very dry and abstract? The focus of the research community which organises the annual Complexity and Management Conference is on human beings and the complex dynamics they get caught up in when they try and get things done with other people. So we are interested in what we say and do, what we think we mean when we say particular things, how trying to go on together sometimes brings about the opposite of what we intend, and how our identities are changed in the process. We are concerned with reflecting on, and becoming reflexive about everyday organisational dilemmas.

The conference begins with a gala dinner on Friday 3rd June @7pm and welcome drinks.

The mode of the whole conference is conversational. This year we are delighted to have engaged Prof Davide Nicolini of Warwick Business School to give the key note because of his insightful work on the importance of practical knowledge.

There is an opportunity for delegates to present their ideas too, on Saturday afternoon 4th June. This might be a paper or a chapter in a book, or it might be something troubling at work which presenters want to use a group as a resource to think about.

On Sunday we reflect on what we have been talking about on Saturday with the help of faculty members from the Doctor of Management programme. Thereafter we have one more round of reflection in groups and finish off with lunch.

It’s exhausting but invigorating at the same time. Hope to see you there. Book here.

Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022- early bird booking ends in 10 days.

What can you expect if you sign up for the Complexity and Management Conference, which focuses on the theory of practice and the practice of theory?

The conference is set in the beautiful gardens and rolling meadow of the Roffey Park Institute. The food is great, and all board and lodging is included in the conference fee.

It begins with a gala dinner on Friday 3rd June @7pm and welcome drinks. The dinner is a chance to meet the other delegates and begin lively conversations which ease you into the weekend. We have a wide variety of delegates; consultants, academics, managers from all over the world. Sone are graduates of the DMan programme and many are not

The mode of the whole conference is conversational. Rather than requiring delegates to present papers they are working on, we choose a theme for the weekend, invite a good speaker to give us some ideas to think about, then engage all weekend in sharing practical dilemmas from the workplace. This year we are delighted to have engaged Prof Davide Nicolini of Warwick Business School to give the key note because of his insightful work on the importance of practical knowledge.

There is an opportunity for delegates to present their ideas too, on Saturday afternoon 4th June. This might be a paper or a chapter in a book, or it might be something troubling at work which presenters want to use a group as a resource to think about.

On Sunday we reflect on what we have been talking about on Saturday with the help of faculty members from the Doctor of Management programme. Thereafter we have one more round of reflection in groups and finish off with lunch.

It’s exhausting but invigorating at the same time. Hope to see you there. Book here.

Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022 – booking now.

The theory of practice and the practice of theory

When people sit together to talk about what’s going on, how they experience work, how they feel about their jobs, there may be some colleagues who complain that this is ‘just a luxury’. There is no time to sit around in a ‘talking shop’ when there is so much to do. And anyway, post-pandemic, haven’t we learnt that we can achieve just as much online?

If you are of the view that sitting around talking and thinking about how we are thinking and talking, what we find ourselves doing at work, then this year’s Complexity and Management Conference is probably not for you. As a broader research community we make an explicit assumption that one of a manager’s key tasks is to talk with their team about what they think is going on, what sense they make of it, and what it means for the group in taking the next steps together.

As a partial answer to the second point, why we are not running it online, we have organised this conference for the past two years online, and have benefitted from a broad range of participation from delegates who live too far away to come. From across time zones and sometimes great distances they have enriched the experience of paying attention to what we are doing. But it’s also the case that some qualities get lost. If we are concerned not just to talk about ideas, but to experience them, then occasionally there is no substitute for getting bodies together in a room. No more so when we choose to talk about the paradox of theory and practice. There is a practice in talking about theory, and the experience of doing so enhances learning in ways which are more than cognitive. We are moved into a different relationship with others and ourselves, a process which is attenuated online. Maybe everyone has recently experienced the difference of coming back to the workplace to work together in the same location as colleagues and has noticed the difference that encountering others makes. Having been out of practice, sometimes it may have felt overwhelming.

There is of course an environmental cost too to organising an in-person conference.

So, we have thought carefully about what we are doing and why, and we delighted to have Prof Davide Nicolini @NicoliniDavide to give us material to think about in his key note on Saturday morning 4th June. Thereafter the afternoon will be given over to anyone wanting to present their work or ideas in parallel workshops. On Sunday we respond to the previous day, and continue the discussion till lunchtime.

The conference fee includes all board and lodging. Roffey Park is set in a beautiful garden bordering a large meadow with a forest beyond. The food is of a high standard, the quality of conversation even higher and we would be delighted to see you there.

Here is the link to book. Early bird rates ends 30th April 2022.

The theory of practice and the practice of theory – booking now

Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022.

For the past two years the annual Complexity and Management Conference has been held online. Yes, it’s worked well enough, but we’re delighted to be able to plan for an in-person event this June. Meeting face to face, exploring, discussing, maybe disagreeing is consistent with the theme of the conference this year which is the paradox of practice and theory. The kind of knowledge we are interested in, knowledge from practice for practice, is dialectical and emerges from the back-and-forth between engaged human bodies. It is a social achievement involving taking turns, listening, thinking, speaking: it’s about learning to improvise together as an ensemble performance, with all the slips, detours and ambiguity that this implies.

For those unfamiliar with the CMC, this is a not an orthodox conference where people sit on panels and present their academic papers, leaving five minutes at the end for a hurried discussion. There is a place for these, but our interest is in taking the time we need to talk about what matters to us, to do justice to the organisational dilemmas we find ourselves dealing with. The quality of what emerges is consistent with the quality of participation of everyone present. Talking together with no particular end in view is also a practice which develops over time and is uncertain of outcome. In today’s instrumental organisations free flowing discussion is often viewed with suspicion. But at the CMC you are likely to meet others who are committed to exploration, and in taking the time to see where the deliberation leads.

We are delighted to have Prof Davide Nicolini @NicoliniDavide  giving us material to think about in his key note on Saturday morning 4th June. Thereafter the afternoon will be given over to anyone wanting to present their work or ideas in parallel workshops. On Sunday we respond to the previous day, and continue the discussion till lunchtime.

On Friday 3rd June there is a seminar and discussion on my latest book Complexity: a key idea for business and society, which is a way on introducing some of the main concepts informing the perspective of complex responsive processes of relating.

There is an early bird discount until the end of April 2022. Click this link for the conference and/or the introductory seminar.

Write to me with any queries to c.mowles@herts.ac.uk

The Doctor of Management programme

At the heart of the community of inquiry developing the perspective of complex responsive processes of relating is the Doctor of Management (DMan) programme. It has been running for more than 20 years and to date has produced 75 doctoral graduates. In the pragmatic tradition we encourage students to take their every day experience seriously, and to think sociologically about how their daily travails are informed by, and inform broader socio-economic trends. They are encouraged to take the perspective of the pilot, and at the same time the perspective of the swimmer, caught up along with everyone else amid the swirling currents of every day organisational life. If the theses graduates produce have one thing in common, it is that they are all extended exercises in reflexivity. We encourage managers and consultants to think about how they are thinking and acting with others, and to bring their assumptions about the world more the fore. In doing so they are complexifying experience, but when they do so they are still obliged so say something of relevance and interest to colleagues working in similar domains. They produce knowledge from practice for practice.

If this video makes you interested in the DMan, the conference, or anything else, then please get in touch. The book is available here: https://amzn.to/3GIZYFj . Many thanks to David O’Dwyer  for making this video.

Developing thinking, developing the practice of complexity

More publications are in press following the publication of my book last November. Nick Sarra and Karina Solsø have edited a volume on complexity and consultancy; Kiran Chauhan and Emma Crewe have edited a volume on complexity and leadership, and Karen Norman and I are editing one on complexity and the public sector. More information on their publication dates soon.

Meanwhile Davide Nicolini will be our key note speaker at this year’s conference 3-5th June entitled The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory. You can book for the conference here.

If this video makes you interested in the part time professional doctorate the DMan, which is run psychodynamically, the conference, or anything else, then please get in touch. The book is available here: https://amzn.to/3GIZYFj . Many thanks to David O’Dwyer of https://lnkd.in/edgdxwgA for making this video.

What do managers do from a complexity perspective?

Organising as complex responsive processes of relating

My latest book, Complexity – a key idea for business and society, arises out of a community of inquiry, where a conversation about complexity and organising which has been going on for more than 20 years.

Contributing to the conversation are my faculty colleagues, Kiran ChauhanEmma CreweKaren Norman, Nick Sarra and Karina Solsø, the students and graduates of the Doctor of Management (DMan) programme at the University of Hertfordshire, and the wider research community who attend the annual conference.

If this video makes you interested in the part time professional doctorate the DMan, which is run psychodynamically, the conference, which this year takes the theme of the theory and practice or anything else, then please get in touch.

The book is available here: https://amzn.to/3GIZYFj . Many thanks to David O’Dwyer of https://lnkd.in/edgdxwgA for making this video.

Complexity and Management conference 3-5th June 2022 – open for booking.

This year’s Complexity and Management Conference 3- 5th June: The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory, with key note speaker Prof Davide Nicolini is now open for booking.

As usual there is an early bird discount until April 30th.

On Friday 3rd June there is an introductory day on complex responsive processes. This is suitable for anyone wanting to discuss what’s going on for them at work and to think about it in terms of complex group dynamics, as preparation for joining the main conference starting Saturday at 9.00.

Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022 – the theory of practice and the practice of theory

Practitioners often have an ambivalent relationship with theory, and much academic writing may not help. Academic articles can often seem obscure and are usually aimed at other academics rather than managers and consultants working in every day organisational life. Scholars in business schools have long been aware of the problem and have written about the crisis of relevance of organisational scholarship. Equally, there may also be a tendency among consultants to climb aboard the latest bandwagon, to try too quickly to squeeze complex ideas into grids and frameworks, and to instrumentalise. Consultants are paid to know and perhaps to simplify.

How, then to navigate between the potential collapse of important ideas into instrumental two by two girds and frameworks, on the one hand, and the kind of knowledge that is valued in the Academy? What kind of knowledge do we need from practice for practice?

During next year’s Complexity and Management Conference, June 3-5th 2022, we are delighted to welcome Prof Davide Nicolini to help stimulate our thinking about practice and knowledge.  Davide is Professor of Organization Studies at Warwick Business School where he co-directs the IKON Research Centre and co-ordinates the Practice, Process and Institution Research Programme. His current research focuses on the development of the practice-based approach and the refinement and promotion of processual, relational and materialist research methods. 

As usual the currency of the conference is discussion, and the weekend will comprise lots of opportunities to talk about the experience of trying to get things done together. The conference will begin 7pm Friday 3rd June and end at lunchtime on the Sunday. The booking website will go up in the New Year.