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Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business Paperback – December 26, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
—Christopher Meyer, Director, The Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Center for Business Innovation, and coauthor of BLUR: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy and Future Wealth
“Surfing the Edge of Chaos is a breakthrough book . . . rendering subtle and complex ideas into readable prose by refracting the ideas through the prism of real-life organizations. This book will be must reading for any serious executive or student of organizational change.”
—Warren Bennis, University Professor and Founding Chairman of the Leadership Institute, University of Southern California, and author of Managing the Dream
“Surfing the Edge of Chaos is an action plan for bringing organizations to life and life to organizations.”
—Prof. Gary Hamel, author of Leading the Revolution and coauthor of Competing for the Future; Visiting Professor, London Business School; and Chairman of Strategos
“Grounded in both theory and practice, Surfing the Edge of Chaos helps any manager facing change to replace equilibrium and the status quo with innovation and self-renewal. The links drawn between the world of nature and the world of business form a particularly rich source of ideas for turning complexity and chaos into resolve and results.”
—Dave Ulrich, Professor of Business, University of Michigan, and author of Results-Based Leadership
Top Customer Reviews
The authors do an excellent job of contrasting their approach (adaptive leadership) with more traditional reorganization (operational leadership). But refreshingly, they also acknowledge that in some cases, the more traditional approach might be more appropriate. There are many interesting concepts being developed by complexity theorists and this book manages to capture many, if not most, of them.
They show repeatedly the need to increase the stress on an organization in order to break past patterns of behavior. Their use of fitness landscapes (the idea that a successful company rests on a peak, and that in order to reach a new higher peak, often you must go down into the valley) is very powerful and at least partially explains why so many successful companies subsequently struggle, or fail, to adapt. Importantly though, the authors also spend a great deal of time talking about the unintended (or second and third order) effects of change. The point is not that you will be able to predict all of them (which is what chaos theory explicity says you cannot do), but rather that you must be flexible enough to roll with those unanticipated consequences.
Does that mean that every idea in this book is new? Of course not, but to be successful, a new theory often must combine the old with the new.Read more ›
I found this book an easy read, constantly underlining sentences and putting the book down to reflect on what was said and my own past experiences. I could see why my past approaches to management and motivation (especially reward systems which the book discusses in depth), described here as being used even by management considered open and progressive, was not successful, or if successful, not sustainable.
Anyone looking for specific answers on what organizational approaches should be used to take advantage of the concepts behind chaos should perhaps focus on this book's emphasis of things being messy, emerging in ways we cannot predict, and the experience of generating change not being straight forward (Herding Butterflies). If one can have faith that in the designed sloppiness, good things can be emerging, that faith could help one and other true believers stay the course without returning to command-and-control methods. It takes a whole new mindset to create the kind of change described in this book, and it takes a degree of critical mass in gaining converts who will in good faith implement the precepts over what could be a long period of time. The need for patience is well explained in the book.
The book is clearly not into the biology view of allowing just anything to emerge on its own.Read more ›
Surfing the Edge of Chaos is an unusually good book on applying the lessons of complexity science about the biological world to business progress. The material is aimed at continuous renewal of the large existing organization, but will be valuable to organizations of all ages and sizes. The explanations of the key principles are well documented with many interesting animal and business examples. Based on experience by the authors as advisors to most of the businesses cited, the stories have a depth and a resonance that is missing in many books about how to apply the lessons of "complex adaptive systems" to human organizations.
The book also strongly and effectively challenges the existing engineering and reengineering models of how to improve organizations. If you are about to put a lot of effort into these areas, hold up until you have a chance to read this book. You may well change your mind.
Many people tell me that they still do not understand what they need to do in order to apply the lessons of complexity science to their business after reading books on this subject. Few will have that problem after reading this excellent work.
The authors help make the transition between the mechanical model of organizations to a biological one by synthesizing four new principles:
(1) "Equilibrium is a precursor to death.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting ideas, but the case studies are less convincing. As with Excellence, many of the case studies have failed. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
The authors state, “A complex adaptive system is formally defined as a system of independent agents that can act in parallel, develop “models” as to how things work in their... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Thomas Law
Great correlations with living systems.... Generating a great book with series of cases to be used as reference on the theme. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Giuliano
An important book that will give you ideas about how to interpret change around you, and how to interact within chaotic environments. Read morePublished 19 months ago by R. Mullen
Prompt, courteous resolution of an issue but I don't want to have to be the one reporting that the item sent doesn't match the description.Published 20 months ago by Greg
This book is perhaps a bit dated but an interesting read. Essentially, the authors posit much can be learn from the brutality and struggle of survival in nature to improve the... Read morePublished on September 15, 2011 by Demetrius Minos
Richard T Pascale, Mark Millenan and Linda Gioja, Surfing at the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the Laws of Business (New York: Crown, 2000)
New science that... Read more
Chaos WILL BE the next big thing. I found this book fascinating and I truly believe the ideas suggested will have an influence upon business in the years to come. Read morePublished on March 14, 2009 by Daedalus