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What does complexity mean for the Gov 2.0?

(Post originally published here)

A key topic this morning [at the Cisco Public Services Summit, in Stockholm,] was how the world is becoming “more complex” and how it is changing in an unpredictable way. But what do we mean by these statements, besides that we cannot pretend to control anymore?

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At lunch time, a fellow delegate [at the conference] was talking about how it was unpredictable 10 years ago to think that his 6 year old daughter would be asking him to type an internet address to dress her doll online. That means, he said, that you can say anything about what will happen 10 years from now. Nobody has the faintest idea of what will emerge in this future which is not so far…

That is complexity. Complexity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complexity) expresses how “order” (a pattern) can result from interaction rather than from a blueprint or a plan. The order we see today (web 2.0, ubiquitous connectivity, globalisation, etc.) is a pattern which emerged out of the interacion of millions of people co-creating their future, which is our future, through their actions and decisions.

Taking complexity seriously draws our attention to how we are interdependent from each other in this process of co-creating the future. On the one hand, it has a positive value attached to it, related to how everyone has a voice in it. But, on the other hand, it bring up the anxiety for not being “in control”.

It is difficult for any manager, in the public or private sector, to acknowledge that he or she is not in control of what’s happening, because he is nevertheless accountable for the results. I believe that this tension, this paradox of being accountable while not in control, is what makes it difficult to take this complex, interdependent and connected world into full account.

Moving from a “broadcast model” of democracy (in which you can have a say every 4 or 5 years), to a “gov 2.0″ model of democracy (in which you can always have a say), means that the business of government becomes even more unpredictable. It’s unknown territory, in which novelty can arise but no one can fully control the power dynamics which may emerge from that change. Are our institutions ready for that? The hard truth is that, ready or not, that change is already happening. The choice then become either to lead it or follow it…

What do you think?
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