This is to give you advance notice that next year’s Complexity and Management Conference will be 5th-7th June 2020, at Roffey Park, speaker and topic to be decided.
What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life.
For this year’s Complexity and Management Conference we are delighted to have Professor André Spicer from the Cass Business School, City, University of London to give the keynote on Saturday morning. André holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has held visiting appointments at universities around the world. André is the author of many academic articles and nine books. The most recent are ‘Business Bullshit’, ’The Stupidity Paradox’ and ‘Desperately Seeking Self Improvement’.
The agenda for the one day introduction to complex responsive processes on Friday 17th May and for the conference on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May is here: CMC Agenda
There are still some places available, both for the one day workshop and for the conference, and you can book your place here.
This year’s Complexity and Management Conference, on 17th-19th May: What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life offers the opportunity for delegates to reflect on what it means to be critical and why it is important to be so in today’s organisations. On the first morning of the conference we have invited Professor Andre Spicer to help us get the discussion going. If you want to sign up for the conference and save yourself some money before the early bird deadline expires, then click here.
Here are a few ideas on the traditions of thought to which we will be contributing.
We have a strong critical tradition in western thought, starting with the ancient Greeks. However, the contemporary philosopher Julian Baggini has shown us how a variety of cultures have their own traditions of systematically thinking about the human condition, on the basis that, as Socrates put it, the life unexamined is not worth living. How might we lead a good life, what do we mean by truth, how might we guard against the fragility of goodness, as Martha Nussbaum expressed it? Examining our lives in the back and forth dialectic of discussion is necessary if we are to make meaning and become fully human, but it can have its negative consequences, as it did for Socrates. Problematising, probing, judging comes with its own risks: we are unlikely to be condemned to death for corrupting Athenian youth, as he was, but simply asking questions can call out a strong reaction. Why might that be?
As Kant identified, to critique (originating in judgement, from the Greek krisis) involves imagination and daring:
Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! “Have courage to use your own reason!”- that is the motto of enlightenment.
Kant thought that ‘daring to know’ may require courage to take on sources of authority, so that even religion, perhaps the biggest locus of authority in his day, would need ‘to sustain the test of its free and public examination.’ He suggested that subjecting sources of legitimacy and authority to critical inquiry is not something to be undertaken lightly, although it is necessary if we are to liberate ourselves from ignorance. Both implicitly and explicitly, becoming critical means engaging with questions of legitimacy and power and calling into question the status quo.
But is it enough just to doubt and reason on our own and by ourselves? From a Hegelian perspective the answer is no, since Hegelians would claim that we are not just autonomous, rational individuals cognizing in the abstract, but we are socially and historically formed. More, and from a pragmatic perspective, it is not helpful to doubt everything all of the time, but we should engage first with those problems which preoccupy us. To pursue inquiry from a Hegelian and pragmatic perspective means taking an interest in history. How has the phenomenon, the particular predicament we are interested in evolved over time, and what has led to what? We then try to place our difficulties, within the larger history of social relations and their structural contradictions. This may mean drawing attention to power relationships and calling into question the legitimacy of certain ways of knowing and speaking, perhaps asking the question cui bono, who benefits? It certainly means pursuing these questions through dialectical inquiry, where an abstract notion of truth is replaced by the idea that insight arises in the back and forth or argument in a community of engaged inquirers.
And by taking part in discussion and argumentation we then find ourselves discovering that moral and political judgements in particular are plural. We might enhance our ability to see the world from perspectives other than our own. So in addition to Kant’s injunction to dare to know, we might find ourselves developing greater empathy, imagination and solidarity.
If this kind of inquiry interests you, where you engage with a committed group of peers to discuss current organisational difficulties and discover plural and complex points of view, then this year’s Complexity and Management conference 17th-19th May is the place to be. There may be no resolution to your predicaments but perhaps you will find some degree of solidarity with and from others in the complex responsive processes of relating. Dare to come!
Early bird concessions end 1st April.
 Nussbaum, M (1986) The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
 An answer to the question what is Enlightenment? 1784
 Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, 1781.
 “We cannot begin with complete doubt. We must begin with all the prejudices which we actually have when we enter upon the study of philosophy…Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts.” CS Peirce (1992), The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings Vol 1, Bloomington: Indiana University Press: pp28-29.
This video is a very poor quality recording of Ralph Stacey giving his last exposition of complex responsive processes at the Complexity and Management Conference June 2018 before his retirement.
Apologies for both sound and picture quality.
Here are the outline arrangements for next year’s CMC, which is held to mark the retirement of Ralph Stacey after more than 30 years at Hertfordshire Business School.
The conference begins as usual on Friday 8th June evening at 7pm and finishes after lunch on Sunday 10th. The conference fee covers all board and lodging, and the theme this year is:
Taking complexity seriously – why does it matter?
A more detailed agenda for the conference will follow, but in outline:
- Ralph Stacey will give the primary key note on Saturday morning 9th.
- For the afternoon keynote slot there will be a variety of break-out sessions suggested by conference delegates and informed by the theme of the conference.
- Chris Mowles will respond to themes which arise during the conference on Sunday morning .
On Friday 8th, there will be a one day introduction to complexity and management for those who have not yet come across the ideas similar to the one we ran this year.
The one day workshop will be run by Ralph Stacey, and Chris Mowles. You can see a list of their publications on this blog.
The one day workshop on the 8th June will require participants to bring examples of some of the dilemmas they are facing at work. The workshop will start at 9.30am and will cover the following.
Session 1 Some key insights from the complexity sciences for thinking about managing organizations. Ralph Stacey
Session 2 Participants discuss these ideas in relation to their practical experience at work. Plenary.
Session 3 Some key theories from the social sciences: power, process and communication. Chris Mowles
Q and A.
Session 4 Experiencing uncertainty live: reflective group to consider the dynamics of this particular group in relation to the theories which have been explored during the day.
A booking site for both events will be uploaded onto the University of Hertfordshire website in early January 2018.
Accommodation for the one day workshop is not included in the fee, but separate arrangements can be made with Roffey Park by those delegates who will need to arrive the night before.
This is to give early notification that next year’s Complexity and Management Conference will take place at Roffey Park between 8-10th June 2018.
The conference will be held to mark the retirement of Ralph Stacey from the university and from the faculty of the Doctor of Management programme.
There will be more details in the autumn to give more details of the conference topic and the other key note speakers in addition to Ralph.
The participants who attend the annual Complexity and Management conference experience the same dynamics as members of any other group, even if it’s a temporary group. For example, one repeating theme at the conference is the established/outsider dynamic of those who have been through the Doctor of Management programme, or are currently on it, and those who haven’t. Participants who have been exposed to the programme because they are graduates, or because they are regular conference attenders are likely to talk in a way which may feel exclusionary to those who are new. Almost every year, new attendees at the conference raise the question as to whether we could have done more to make them feel welcome. There is always the ghost of the DMan-demon at the conference.
For this reason we are holding a one day introductory workshop on Friday 2nd June, to present some of the key ideas which inform the perspective of complex responsive processes of relating. It is a public workshop open to all, not just those who will go on to attend the conference For those who do, it may, or may not, make a difference to the quality of their participation. The conference begins the same evening with supper at 7pm.
You can book for the one day workshop, for the workshop and conference, or just for the conference here. There is a discount for early-bird booking before April 30th. For more details on the workshop, continue reading below: Continue reading
Working in groups: what practical difference does it make to take complexity seriously?
One day introductory workshop on complexity and management Friday 2nd June.
2017Complexity and Management Conference 2-4th June 2017.
The booking page is now live and can be found by clicking this link. There is a £50 discount for booking before April 30th 2017.
‘The present historical situation shows clearly that human problems cannot be solved in isolation but only through concerted effort of the whole of humanity. The future of the human species may well be made or marred according to whether or not it is able to grasp this fact and act upon it while there is still time. Anything we can learn as to the relationships of persons towards each other, and of groups towards each other, is therefore, or great therapeutic significance.’ (Foulkes, 1947/2002)
Foulkes encouraged us to think about the importance of groups and ways of relating 80 years ago in the wake of the WWII – I wonder what he would have thought of our current predicaments. With increased social division, the rise of the far Right and demagoguery, we would be naïve to think that recent political upheavals in Europe and America do not also show up in different forms in organisational life.
Foulkes invited us to be more scientific about groups, seeing them as a resource, as a means to liberate ourselves from unhelpful, repetitive behaviour, which may be informed by our primitive responses to each other. He thought it possible that we could learn better to adjust to each other and gain insight into our often stuck and unhelpful behaviour. But by ‘adjustment’ he did not mean that we simply conform mindlessly. Rather, adjustment is made possible from our insight that we are interdependent and through the development of more helpful, negotiated ways of going on together.
The 2017 Complexity and Management Conference takes inspiration from Foulkes, but broadens his thinking by drawing on perspectives from organizational theory, sociology and philosophy. Our intention is to explore the complex responsive processes of relating in groups and to think about their relevance for our everyday experience of organising.
This year we are also offering an additional one day introductory workshop on Friday 2nd June. This workshop is suitable to anyone who would like to attend the conference but has had little exposure to the ideas informing the perspective of complex responsive processes. It is an opportunity to learn some of the basic concepts and to think about them in relation to your experience at work. The workshop is freestanding, and there is no requirement to attend the conference afterwards.
The conference itself runs as usual from 7pm Friday 2nd June till after lunch on Sunday 4th June. The conference fee includes all board and lodging and will have its usual mix of key note speeches, break-out discussions and informal socialising.
Key note speakers this year are:
Dr Martin Weegmann, who is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Group Analyst, and has specialised in substance misuse and personality disorders and is a well-known trainer. His latest books are: The World within the Group: Developing Theory for Group Analysis (Karnac, 2014) and Permission to Narrate: Explorations in Group Analysis, Psychoanalysis & Culture (Karnac 2016).
Dr Karina Iversen is a graduate of the Doctor of Management programme and an experienced consultant working in Denmark. She has co-authored a Danish introductory book on complex responsive processes of relating, which has gained a lot of attention in Danish communities interested in complexity. Karina is also an external lecturer at the Copenhagen Business School.
Professor Nick Sarra is a Consultant Psychotherapist working in the NHS and a group analyst specialising in organisational consultancy, debriefing and mediation within the workforce. He works on three post graduate programmes at the School of Psychology, Exeter University and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Hertfordshire.
If there are any queries then please contact Prof Chris Mowles: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Mowles is visiting Australia the week beginning 12th December and will be running a two day intensive workshop and a breakfast meeting with 10000hours .
The two day workshop is entitled:
LEADING IN UNCERTAINTY – 13/14th December
The workshop is suitable for experienced leaders, managers and consultants from all kinds of organizations. It includes a mixture of seminars, break-out discussions, and real time exploration of examples from participants’ own organizations.
Chris will draw on insights from the complexity sciences developed by Ralph Stacey in the perspective known as complex responsive processes, which informs this blog.
Participants can expect to gain basic insights into the complexity sciences understood in social terms, and to experience the importance of reflection and reflexivity in relation to their particular organizational contexts.
To find out more follow this link: http://10000hours.com/chrismowles/
Breakfast meeting Thursday 15th December
10,000 Hours will host a breakfast meeting for experienced leaders, managers and consultants wishing to hear about the what difference understanding organisational life as complex responsive processes of relating can make to the task of leading of managing.
Evening seminar UTS Thursday 15th December
Chris will give a seminar hosted by UTS to interested academic colleagues about some of the difficulties of sustaining critical management education in the UK. He will talk in particular about the contribution of the Doctor of Management programme at the university of Hertfordshire.
Lunchtime seminar RMIT Melbourne 16th December
Chris will give a similar seminar to interested academic colleagues in Melbourne at lunchtime in RMIT.
If you are based in Australia and any of the above interests you contact Chris at email@example.com
Complexity and Management Conference 2017 – 2nd– 4th June: Roffey Park Management Centre
Human beings are born into groups and spend most of their working lives participating in them. Groups can be creative and improvisational, transforming who we think we are, and they may also be destructive and undermining. They hold the potential for both tendencies.
Many employers emphasise the importance of teamwork, yet employees in organizations are often managed, developed and assessed as though they were autonomous individuals. And although many organisational mission statements include aspirations to be creative and innovative, it is a rare to attend a meeting without a particular end in view, where participants feel able to explore the differences and difficulties that arise when they work together.
Meanwhile organizational development (OD) literature tends to idealize, and assumes that the best kind of organizations are those where staff ‘align’ with each other and learn to communicate in ways which bypass power and politics. They are offered step-wise tools and techniques to help them communicate with ‘openness and transparency’, so they can speak the truth and understand each other harmoniously. Conflict and power struggles are then topics that are avoided or ignored. The danger of the individualizing and idealizing tendencies in organisations is that they may leave employees feeling deskilled and unconfident about how to work creatively in groups.
At the 2017 Complexity and Management Conference we will discuss practical ways of working in groups, which assume that human interaction is necessarily imperfect, ambiguous and conflictual, and this contributes to the complex evolution of organizational life.
Keynote speakers this year: Dr Martin Weegmann, Dr Karina Solsø Iversen and Professor Nick Sarra
Martin Weegmann is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Group Analyst, who has specialised in substance misuse and personality disorders and is a well-known trainer. His latest books are: The World within the Group: Developing Theory for Group Analysis (Karnac, 2014) and Permission to Narrate: Explorations in Group Analysis, Psychoanalysis & Culture (Karnac 2016). He is currently working on a new edited book, Psychodynamics of Writing.
Karina Solsø Iversen is graduate of the Doctor of Management programme and an experienced consultant working in Denmark. Karina’s consultancy work is based on the practice of taking experience seriously as a way of working with leadership and organizational development. She has co-authored a Danish introductory book to the theory of complex responsive processes of relating, which has gained a lot of attention in Danish communities interested in complexity. Karina is also an external lecturer at Copenhagen Business School.
Nick Sarra is a Consultant Psychotherapist working in the NHS and a group analyst specialising in organisational consultancy,debriefing and mediation within the workforce. He works on three post graduate programmes at the School of Psychology, Exeter University and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Hertfordshire.
Further details from firstname.lastname@example.org. Booking begins early 2017.