Thoughts on the Santa Fe Institute

A topic of considerable discussion, debate, and thought for a great many of us long before a series of ever larger crises, the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) chose the theme of complexity in regulation for their annual meeting, which just concluded. I was fortunate enough to attend last year’s 25th anniversary meeting at SFI, but this year I was only able to view the final full day via webcast, which was excellent. Prior to sharing my thoughts on the important topic of simplifying regulation in a future post, which will be covered more extensively in my book in progress, I want to focus a bit on SFI.

The official SFI about page can be found here, although having written many of these descriptions myself; I’ve yet to write or read one that captures the essence of the organization, people, or contributions, so please allow the liberty of a few additional lines in first person.

I have been following SFI regularly for 15 years, and since moving to Santa Fe nearly two years ago have had many interactions. SFI essentially pioneered complexity as a discipline, but is also a proponent of what I now refer to in my own work as a mega disciplinary approach to truth seeking, without which frankly many researchers and their cultures can become blinded.

One of several strengths of SFI is their ability to draw from a very broad universe of scholars, each of whom is a leading expert in a specific discipline, but also shares an interest in both complexity theory—which affects everything else, as well as the need to work across disciplines in order to learn from each.

The intimate size and environment of SFI is I believe why so many leading scholars contribute and engage. After living in Santa Fe, visiting the campus and attending multiple events, with a great many exchanges with larger institutions, I can certainly understand the appeal for permanent faculty, visiting scholars, post docs, and business network members. Read More

Myths and Truths about Innovation

In my daily filtering of news and intelligence, I usually find one or more quotes on innovation that blatantly abuses the term for some other agenda. While such efforts are obvious to me, they are obviously not obvious to many or presumably such attempts would not receive so much digital ink. It’s an issue that has bothered me for many years, with almost daily reminders, so this morning I am taking a bit of time to clear the air.

A section on: ‘What innovation is, but is rarely reported’ followed a section; ‘What innovation is not, but is quite often reported to be’ Read More

Hidden costs of complexity in the enterprise

Similar to healthcare, education, and finance where complexity creep has been manipulated for long periods until surpassing sustainability, enterprise software has become primarily a game of ‘heads I win; tails you lose’ for those paying the bills. While the first generation of enterprise software provided a strong competitive advantage to early adopters, the bulk of systems have long since resembled a tax on admission. Read More

SFI video lectures on innovation

The professor giving the lecture is Andrew Hargadon, who currently holds the Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at UC Davis. Professor Hagadon Blogs here, and a brief interview on the series is located here.

SFI is kind enough to offer the two videos freely on the web, each of which is about 90 minutes in length. I watched both lectures within 24 hours of writing this, so they are still fresh. I agree with about 90% of Andrew’s lecture so highly recommend it, although the recommendation will come with a brief critique, and a warning regarding the other 10%. Read More

Systemic failure requires new holistic cure

As I scanned mass media’s response to the latest terrorist incident, I found very little evidence from representatives of our democracy either in government or journalism who understand the complex issues involved with prevention of systemic crises. The nature of our political system is that we often hear from political appointees rather than functional experts. Compounding the problem is that our mass media culture usually considers experts only from mainstream institutions, which are in fact where many of the crises have been born in recent years. Read More

Web 3.0 Leaders Look to the Year Ahead

Jenny Zaino at asked a group of us to provide predictions for 2010. An interesting mix and worth a close look, particularly for those seeking input from the front lines of Web innovation.

Maya in the global parcel delivery business

A few months ago we decided to produce a series of papers in story telling format to better communicate the value of our Kyield system for decision makers in large organizations, rather than the normal highly technical use cases written and consumed primarily within the scientific community: ‘Semantic Scenarios for the Intelligent Enterprise’. I just posted… Read More

Preventing the next Fort Hood tragedy, by design

This recent tragedy at Fort Hood was only the latest in a series of crises that would likely have been prevented if the U.S. Government had adopted a logical holistic system design when I first began making the argument more than a decade ago. Since that time we’ve witnessed trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives lost; 9/11 and two wars, Katrina’s turf battles and incompatible communications, the mortgage bubble and global financial crisis, and now the Fort Hood massacre. The current trajectory of systems design and function isn’t sustainable. Read More