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