Pub. Date:
Imperial College Press
Nature of Change or the Law of Unintended Consequences, The: An Introductory Text to Designing Complex Systems and Managing Change

Nature of Change or the Law of Unintended Consequences, The: An Introductory Text to Designing Complex Systems and Managing Change

by John Mansfield


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This absorbing book provides a broad introduction to the surprising nature of change, and explains how the Law of Unintended Consequences arises from the waves of change following one simple change. Change is a constant topic of discussion, whether be it on climate, politics, technology, or any of the many other changes in our lives. However, does anyone truly understand what change is?Over time, mankind has deliberately built social and technology based systems that are goal-directed — there are goals to achieve and requirements to be met. Building such systems is man's way of planning for the future, and these plans are based on predicting the behavior of the system and its environment, at specified times in the future. Unfortunately, in a truly complex social or technical environment, this planned predictability can break down into a morass of surprising and unexpected consequences. Such unpredictability stems from the propagation of the effects of change through the influence of one event on another.The Nature of Change explains in detail the mechanism of change and will serve as an introduction to complex systems, or as complementary reading for systems engineering. This textbook will be especially useful to professionals in system building or business change management, and to students studying systems in a variety of fields such as information technology, business, law and society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781848165403
Publisher: Imperial College Press
Publication date: 05/28/2010
Pages: 212
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

List of Tables ix

List of Figures xi

Chapter 1 What Do We Mean by Change? 3

The Study of Change 8

Chapter 2 Some Definitions 11

Natural Systems 11

Artificial Systems 11

Social Systems 12

Technical Systems 12

Socio-Technical Systems 12

A System 13

Complicated System 13

Complex System 14

A Component's Environment 15

Co-Evolutionary Systems 16

Thresholds 17

Propagation 17

Initial Conditions 18

Design Space 18

Chapter 3 Failure by Design 21

Socio-Technical Design Failure 21

Chapter 4 Influence, Boundaries and Structure 27

Examples 27

Influence 29

Boundaries 31

Organisation or Network Structure 33

Regular Networks 33

Random Networks 34

Small-World Networks 34

Layered and Hierarchic Aspects 36

Systems have a Past and a Future 37

Layers of Change 37

Chapter 5 Change in Complex Systems 41

Fitness and Change 43

Change in an N-dimensional Design Space 47

The Co-Evolutionary Process 50

The Threshold 52

Resistance to Change 55

Chapter 6 Propagation 59

The Temporal Effect 60

An Illustration of Propagation in a Model 61

Chapter 7 Modelling and Modelling Mechanisms 67

Models 67

Computer-Based Models 68

Aspects of Model Design 70

Coupling 72

Cumulative Effect 76

Structural Change 77

Mechanisms 77

Cellular Automata 77

Simultaneous Change 82

Subsequent Changes 85

Feedback 88

Agent-Based Models 89

Chapter 8 Simulation 93

The SeeChange Program and the System Structure 96

A "Cellular Automata" Application of SeeChange 100

Small-World Application of SeeChange 103

Applying SeeChange to a Business Model 108

Comparison of SeeChange with Commercial Tools 112

Insight and Understanding of System Behaviour 114

Insight into Interaction with Complex Systems 114

Chapter 9 What Do We Do When a Change is Indicated? 117

Messes, Problems and Puzzles 117

Design by Increments 118

Forecasting 120

Chapter 10 Implementing a System 121

Early Architectures 121

Mutability 124

The Crucial Role of Time 125

Design of Computer-Based Systems 126

Design Strategy 127

Chapter 11 Real-World Change: EUREKA Class 129

Aspects of the Change Process on a Ship 130

EUREKA Simple Simulation 131

Independent Changes 132

Impact Analysis 132

A Model of Change on a EUREKA Ship 137

A SeeChange Model of Changes to a Ship 145

Physical Model 145

Structure of the SeeChange Model System 151

Chapter 12 Real-World Change: Climate 165

Climate Variables 165

Climate Data 171

Climate Models 174

Simulation of Climate Models 176

Chapter 13 In the Future 181

Surprise is Always the Result of Change, Accept It 181

Bibliography 183

Index 191

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