Complex Interactions

As the enterprise continues the social reorientation of work and its headlong flight to network logic a new mindset is required. Among the most critical is the transformation from transactions to complex interactions.

Colabria Process to Networks

Transactions to Interactions
Processes to Networks

This transformation can be difficult. It’s probably more challenging than the seismic shift in the 1980s from function to process. Do you remember the strange new concepts like value chain or cross-functional teams? Not to mention lugging around Michael Porter’s 1985, 592-page magnum opus Competitive Advantage

Many people resisted the change. They did not like the incursions into their comfortable functions and departments. The functional organizational model had served the corporation for the last 80 years. The 1980s fundamental reorientation to process changed everything.

Well, hold on to your hat, the next great episode of enterprise productivity and innovation is here. It is propelled by complex interactions.

Social media dilettantes and pretentious pundits simply call this enterprise social or social business. This catch-all term is not suitable to describe the fundamental disruption upon business caused by complex interactions.

Many people may accept that complex interaction will inhabit the enterprise of the future, but they really don’t know what they are. It is important to deconstruct the concept to aid in understanding. Here are some properties of complex interactions that are essential to future enterprise prosperity.

Complex Interactions

1. In complex interactions the number of variables (process, finance, customer, employee) is so large that conventional management methods are useless. Techniques like command-and-control or measurement cease to assist in understanding the system.

2. Complex interactions involves multiple, diverse actors. Their interactions are dynamic and rich. Any interaction in the system is affected by and affects other systems.

3. Complex interactions are non-linear and asymmetrical. Small causes may have large effects.

4. Complex interactions are mostly with immediate neighbors. The nature of the influence is modulated by propinquity, both real and virtual.

5. Any complex interaction can feed back onto itself directly or after a number of intervening stages.

6. Complex interactions are open to markets, societies, environment, etc. It is often impossible to define or even comprehend system boundaries.

7. Complex interactions operate far from equilibrium. There must be a constant flow of energy to maintain the organization of the system.

8. Complex interactions has history. It co-evolves. The past is co-responsible for their present and future behavior.


Do these properties make sense? Thing is, most people are already skilled in complex interactions. Most of non-work life, family, friends, fun, etc., is composed of complex interactions.

What does this mean from a practical perspective? What should you be doing different? How can you become a better leader? Here are a few actionable hints that you can start with today…

1. Retire your traditional command-and-control behaviors; Adopt the mindset of cultivate and coordinate.

2. Forget about quantitative and objective measurement; focus on qualitative and subjective drivers.

3. Strive to understand your complex social network structures and patterns; retire the org chart in favor of a good network visualization tool.


The enterprise transformation from transaction to interaction and from process to network is a major theme of your Colabria Action Research Networks. Rip the feed and keep reading to discover advanced tools, methods, techniques and Next Practices from your global praxis ecologies.

Colabria Action Research

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