Tag Archives: complex responsive processes

The Ralph Stacey Memorial Lecture on Weds 5th October at the University of Hertfordshire, 6pm.

This is to give advance notice of The Ralph Stacey Memorial Lecture on Weds 5th October at the University of Hertfordshire, 6pm. The day we have chosen is close both to his birthday and to the date of his death.

I will give a tribute to Ralph and his legacy and Patricia Shaw has agreed to give a response. We hope to turn the lecture into an annual event.

The lecture will be held at the Business School, de Havilland campus, where Ralph was an employee for 32 years. It will be live-streamed so that people can join remotely. For those interested and present in person, we may follow the lecture with an experiential group.

If you’re interested in attending/viewing then please save the date. Further details will follow.

In addition, the dates of next year’s conference are 2nd-4th June 2023. I am assured that there are no further Jubilee celebrations that weekend.

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 – 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

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 – 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.

Complexity – a key idea for business and society

Coming out at the end of November and turning on 7 types of complexity: thoughts about complex selves, complex action, complex knowledge, complex communication, complex authority and complex ethics, all arising from complex models. A plea for management humility along the way.

Complexity and Management Online Symposium 9.30-5.00pm Sat Nov 20th, 2021. Booking soon!

One of the great promises of an accelerated and globalised world, is that it would increase autonomy, freedom and choice. But that’s not how it has turned out, according to German sociologist Hartmut Rosa . Instead social acceleration has led to greater disorientation and fragmentation and a deficiency of resonance. We find ourselves in frenetic standstill. Nothing remains the same, but nothing essentially changes. The more rapidly changing circumstances oblige us to plan to keep up, the more we realise the plans we do make and our methods of planning are inadequate for the new situations we find ourselves in. Acceleration produces its own disruptions, traffic jams, outages and lacunae.

We are also remade in our relationship with ourselves and with the world. In rapidly changing times greater social advantage is gained by those who have fewer commitments, are more flexible in their sense of self and their convictions. The idea that we might have enduring principals, values if you like, to which we cleave, appears slightly old fashioned. Why would we stand firm for anything in a society which appears to value endless adaptability and flexibility? At the same time we encounter an increase in life events, but a hollowing out of experience, which can lead to depression  and ennui, and an attenuation of resonant relationships. This makes it harder to gain determinacy, to recognise ourselves and others in a shifting world.

Are there advantages to be gained, then by waiting, by dwelling with events to transform them into experience? Is this an argument for staying put, for standing firm, for not rushing on to an idealised future, or at least not yet, but to reflect on what’s going on and to take the time to do so.

The online Complexity and Management Symposium is a good place to do this. The working title is: The Complexity of Waiting. It’s an online event for anyone who enjoys reflecting in large groups and small on the experience of being in relation in the early 21st C.

Enjoy the sense of irony that we have been kept waiting by the university for the booking site to go up. But , it may only be a week before you can collapse the excitement of waiting into the purchase of a ticket for the event. In the meantime, if you would like to offer a workshop in the afternoon related to the theme of the Symposium, please contact me on c.mowles@herts.ac.uk .

I hope to see you there.

Complexity and Management Online Symposium 9.30-5.00pm Sat Nov 20th , 2021

The complexity of waiting.

Your boss summons you for a meeting: she can be late, but it would be unwise for you to be. Or you pass your boss in the corridor as she is talking to another colleague: she asks you to wait while she finishes what she has to say, but the conversation goes on and on. You are doubly frustrated by having to listen to matters which don’t concern you, and by being delayed on the task you are on. Do you dare interrupt and negotiate a meeting at a later time?

These are trivial examples, but being asked to wait often reflects a power relationship, the membership or otherwise of a group, and an indication of social status. The groups of people who are likely to be made to wait the longest are the poor, the unemployed, asylum-seekers, and the otherwise marginalised, who face endless iterations of delay in their dealings with borders or state bureaucracy. Sometimes whole populations of people are asked to wait years, sometimes for generations for a resolution of their displacement and refugee status, like the Palestinians for example. There are hierarchies within societies and between societies and the length of time spent waiting is an index of powerlessness. We have recently witnessed long queues of people waiting to leave the airport in Kabul, while the majority of Afghans have no chance of leaving.

But if you have a first world passport you are unlikely to wait as long in the immigration queue as you are if you are a national of a country in the Global South. If you are a business traveller you are likely to board first and perhaps be accelerated through immigration on your arrival. Money, status, nationality, relationships with the powerful, can all make a difference to gaining access, to being let in, to avoiding bureaucratic entanglements, to getting justice. British citizens are already experiencing their change in status of choosing to leave the EU as they have their passports stamped and join the queue of ‘other nationals’.

But even the privileged have been unable to avoid the uncertain waiting that has afflicted us all during the pandemic. We have been locked down, endlessly waiting, for a resolution, a way out, for hope for the future. In a neoliberal age which privileges action, agency, the constant remaking of the self, we have all experienced, more or less, what it means to have our ability to plan our lives profoundly curtailed. Moreover, we have come to think of ourselves as infinitely networked, speeded up, able to gratify our desires instantly. In contemporary organisations and in normal times we are constantly speeding towards an idealised future. Instead, during the last period we have got used to living with the kind of radical uncertainty that populations in the majority world have long been used to. We are thrown back upon ourselves knowing that our plans are highly contingent on circumstances beyond our control.

In large groups and small, the Complexity and Management Symposium will consider the complexities of waiting, of dwelling in uncertainty. The day will comprise a mixture of small and large groups in the morning and workshops in the afternoon presented by Symposium delegates. If you have an idea for a workshop you would like to present, then please write to me at c.mowles@herts.ac.uk.

I will set up a booking site in the next few weeks on the UH website.

Looking forward to seeing you there.