First, this is the second book in a series edited by edited by Stacey, Griffin, and Patricia Shaw from the Complexity and Management Centre, University of Hertfordshire
* Complexity and Management - Fad or Radical Challenge to Systems Thinking (2000) - Stacey, Griffin, Shaw
* Complex Responsive Processes in Organizations - Learning and Knowledge Creation (2001) - Stacey
* Changing Conversations in Organizations: A Complexity Approach to Change (2002) - Shaw
* The Emergence of Leadership (2002) - Griffin
* Complexity and Innovation in Organizations (2002) - Fonseca
* The Paradox of Control in Organizations (2001) -- Streatfield
The series intention is to develop thinking about organizations as Complex Processes of relating vs. as systems. In doing this, the authors clearly expose the failure of mainstream management thinking to explain strategic and organizational phenomena. In place of systemic (mainstream) thinking, are insights gained from complexity science that have been developed into the complex responsive process perspective. This perspective does descriptively address strategic and organizational phenomena and serves as a basis for prescriptive actions. See my review of Complexity and Management.
Second, as with the first book in the series, this is not a book to be "read", it is a book to be "studied." It delves deeply into learning and knowledge creation, the creation of knowledge being the creation of novelty. The radically different views of knowledge between cognitive and behavioral psychology is illuminating.
Stacey offers philosophical, neuroscience, and social science support for the legitimacy of the complex responsive process perspective over the mainstream management thinking. The book is, for the most part, descriptive. There is a comprehensive comparison of the systems thinking and complex responsive process perspectives in the ninth chapter based on what's in the first two books in the series. The tenth and last chapter outlines what the prescriptions might look like. These prescriptions are in the next four books in the series.
The core of this book hones in on learning and knowledge creation, knowledge creation being essential to organization innovation and evolution. The first section deals with the systems thinking perspective. There is a strong case made for the inability of that perspective to explain knowledge creation as well as some insidious aspects of management based on this perspective. The next section provides a comprehensive and robust explanation of the emergence of knowledge from the complex responsive processes of relating.
As in the first book, the content, issues addressed, the perspectives developed are worthy of more than a five star rating. And again, given the newness and challenging nature of the content, the repetition, or repetitive summaries, throughout the book were welcome. The reason for rating it four stars is due to the need to study it so intently in order to gain the understanding of what the author has to tell us. As in the first book in the series, more and better frameworks could have been provided for the information delivered. Given my intense interest in the subject, I developed several of my own frameworks to organize the content in order to gain greater benefit from the information provided.