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A Theory of Complexity and its Relevance to Better Decision Making (by Denis Hicks)

Understanding the origins of Complexity would help managers develop better decision making processes under conditions of Social Complexity and Uncertainty.

One approach is to appreciate how the mind works to determine when it is operating under complex conditions. Recent discoveries in how the mind makes sense of its environment indicate that it operates under conditions of uncertainty almost all the time. It has a limit to the number of concepts it can handle simultaneously and uses limited amounts of data. In order to reach conclusions in a timely manner, the mind has evolved a series of heuristics and biases that work subconsciously such that we are rarely aware that they are functioning. The mind should be regarded more as a 'pattern recognition engine' than a logical device.

By realising this it is possible to identify potential weaknesses in management decision processes. If these weaknesses can be addressed, it should be possible to improve the quality of decision making.

The paper proposes some concepts that may be useful in understanding how the mind functions to indicate the point at which the principals of Social Complexity and Uncertainty become relevant. It suggest ideas on how decision making in such situations can be made more robust.

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