• Decision-Making in a Complex Business World

7/27/2011

Last month, Suffolk University Center for Business Complexity and Global Leadership and Icosystem Corp. hosted a two-day seminar on complexity, one of the biggest challenges facing enterprises today.

Businesses are rapidly evolving into multifarious networks, where social, economic and technological systems are interconnected. Although complexity is expected to increase, many executives are ill-equipped to handle the unique challenges of a dynamic, intertwined business environment. In a 2010 IBM study, more than half of the 1,500 CEOs surveyed said they doubt their ability to manage complexity issues.

To address this need, the “Business Decision Making using Complexity Science Executive Seminar” examined innovative business tools to help senior-level executives harness complexity.

“When systems reach a certain scale, their behavior changes fundamentally,” said Greta Meszoely, Director of the Center for Business Complexity & Global Leadership and Associate Professor at the Sawyer Business School. Consequently, traditional tools cannot effectively address current business challenges. Major global events, such as the Tsunami in Japan or the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, illustrate how conventional tools fall short in understanding today’s problems and opportunities.

Speakers at the seminar evaluated several cutting-edge techniques, including agent-based models, network analysis and visualization tools, which provide insight into the many factors that affect complex organizations.

“Complexity generates great challenges but also tremendous opportunities,” said Meszoely. Using these new tools to understand how multiple systems interact enables executives to make better business decisions that can ultimately help them improve returns on investments, optimize efficiency, respond to unexpected changes, test innovations, mitigate risk and predict cascading effects. “Our ability to harness this complexity is the key to innovation,” she added.

Effective business leaders apply progressive strategies and decision-making processes, but they “must develop the capacity to do so creatively, with imperfect and incomplete information in a dynamic and complex world,” explained Meszoely, who spoke at the seminar.

Additional presenters at the event included Eric Bonabeau, founder of Icosystem; Paolo Gaudiano, CTO of Icosystem and Hamid Benbrahim, vice president of Applied Complexity Research at Fidelity Investments.

The Center for Business Complexity and Global Leadership has led the way in complexity research to help business leaders understand the underlying factors that have transformed the business landscape. On October 17-19, the Center is hosting the second annual “Business Complexity & The Global Leader Conference.” The full-paper submission deadline is September 1. For more information, visit www.businesscomplexity.com.

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