Creating Value in Organizations
New Horizons in Management series
Chapter 1: Introducing the Competing Values Way of Thinking
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1850) declared: ‘It is the last lesson of modern science, that the highest simplicity of structure is produced, not by few elements, but by the highest complexity.’ This statement suggests that simplicity and complexity can often be confused with one another. In the case of novices, for example, a superﬁcial or cursory understanding of something leads to a simple explanation. Simplicity in this sense results from lack of awareness, naivety, or underappreciation. Explanations are simple because complexity is ignored, and such explanations tend to have limited application and value. Experts, on the other hand, are cognizant of the complexity of a phenomenon and, therefore, are aware of the multiple and complicated elements. Their explanations tend to be characterized as elaborate and intricate. They demonstrate a much greater degree of understanding than the novice. It is often diﬃcult to capture their understanding or meaning, however, because their explanations are more complicated and convoluted than those of the novice. Experts can convey the complexity of things, but not in simple terms. Masters understand in much greater depth and detail what novices and experts observe, but their explanations also have much more value and application. They organize complexity into profoundly simple terms. Their explanations represent what Emerson described – the simplicity that lies at the heart of complexity. They understand the phenomenon so completely that they are able to explain complicated things in simple terms. The diﬀerence between the simplicity of novices and the simplicity of masters lies...
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