Jun 26 2020

Humans Just Don’t Understand Complex Systems

A major incident has been declared in Bournemouth as crowds flock to the beach.
Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

My first reaction to this photo was “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” My next reaction was the title of this post, “Humans Just Don’t Understand Complex Systems.”

The Covid crisis is a complex system. I’ve had my head deep in complex systems for the past year as I worked with Ian Hathaway on our new book The Startup Community Way. We never anticipated that the framework we used for the book around complex systems would broadly apply to the world beyond startup communities, but we find ourselves in the middle of a moment where, as a species, our lack of ability to understand how complex systems work is causing accelerating misery all over the world.

We are about to launch the pre-order campaign for the book (if you are interested in it, now’s the time to go preorder The Startup Community Way) and I spent the morning finishing up some content that our PR firm asked for.

A few of the things I wrote jumped out to me in the context of the above photo. One of the phrases was:

“As complex systems, these communities go through tipping points or phase transitions, where the overall state suddenly goes through a radical transformation. Seemingly small actions produce dramatic success but are the result of the infinitesimal, often unseen changes happening over time.”

Sound relevant to this moment? It’s framed in the positive, but applies equally to the negative, where “Seemingly small actions produce dramatic failure but are the result of the infinitesimal, often unseen changes happening over time.”

I’ll end with my answer to the question: Why do we need startup communities now more than ever?

Sustainable economic growth has slowed in many parts of the world. The income and wealth divide within many countries has been dangerously accelerating, and with the Covid crisis, massive global economic dislocation is upon us. Entrepreneurship is the means for upward mobility and wealth creation. Startup communities are critical for improving the impact of entrepreneurship in local geographics and dramatically increase the probability of success of positive economic growth over a long period of time.

In this moment, I’ve decided to create a Startup Community community—a global network for anyone interested in or involved in startup communities around the world. I just spun up a Mighty Network community to experiment and see if that’s a good approach, vs. a Slack community or something else. If you are game to engage as an early alpha user to give me feedback, please jump in and join the Startup Community community.

Don’t forget to pre-order The Startup Community Way. And, the 2nd Edition of Startup Communities is coming out at the same time, so if you want a refresh, pre-order it also!