National Alliance for Physician Competence Discovery Workshop


  • Bryan then gave a short introduction to some of the lexicon of Complex Adaptive Systems.
  • Download: Bryan's PowerPoint slides.

Introduction to Complex Systems


Let's do a short introduction to Complex Adaptive Systems. Years ago I read a book called Complexity and that turned what I think upside down. These are some terms that should be brought up. As we heard last night changing your lexicon is important.

Complex adaptive systems have agents. These agents either compete, cooperate or collaborate (or some combination of these things). What are the agents that make up your system? Do they cooperate (working independently but don't fight)? Do they collaborate? Do they compete (there are advantages to having different models so competition can be good for a system).

Each agent models a strategy and each strategy has a goal.

Each agent models a strategy and each strategy has a goal. W. Edwards Deming put up an overhead in a workshop I attended and said the tiger has two goals - a good life for today and more tigers for tomorrow. If the agents are competing they might all have the same goal but they might also have different ideas about how to achieve their goals.

They also make these goals based on predictions about what might happen in the future.

They usually put their strategies together and use heuristics or rules of thumb. Those strategies create some outcomes in the real world. All those responses or outcomes reveal emergent system behavior and a changed environment. Some living systems have an influence on their environment. The environment needs to have a non-level playing field in order to thrive and there has to be niches. If everything is level there is a mono-culture and not enough diversity to drive evolution.

Parcellation speeds evolution. At different times the sea rose and fell. When it rose it created islands. The edge of those islands allows for evolution to move faster. You can deliberately create parcellation to evolve things faster.

Adaptation - there are three types of adaptation.

Mutation, combination and extremity. Mutation is like serendipity. You are just walking down the street and shout eureka. Combination is what we will mostly be doing while here today. We are going to take things and slam them together.

Extremity is like taking something away and being forced to innovate.

Adaptation allows you to continue to develop strategies.

Norman will be in the Harem room and Curt will be over here. Please divide into two groups of 15, listen to Norman and Curt and then you will get your next assignment.

Download Bryan's PowerPoint slides.