Healthcare can learn from successful business models that embrace Complexity

The top businesses of this century use self-organizing learning network models to take advantage of natural complexity. They use near scale-free architectures to create economies of scale in both their supply chains and on the demand side. This leads to more ways to solve problems, better understanding of customer need, and a light weight adaptable way to meet those needs. The old industrial models need structure and scale to centralize control while the new distributes control through standards to respond to customer need. This enables them to thrive a complex and adaptive world. We can to!

Just imagine how a light weight smart network would make healthcare agile enough to do the same for those it serves. And how the front-line practitioner’s lives would improve by being able to focus on what they want to do and do well. 

Healthcare doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel. We can replicate their success. The answer is to stop trying to impose industrial order on a natural system. As explained in “Complexity and Organization – Environment Relations: Revisiting Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety”[i], only Complexity can control Complexity (see Consider the new companies that dominate the economy.

  • Microsoft succeeds by building tools and systems that empower others to experiment, create new tools and systems create ripples of new success throughout the economy.

  • Google enables the access and distribution of knowledge and thereby empowers others to create innovative ideas and concepts, to drive new thinking and products that contributes to the better understanding and success for everyone.

  • Apple gives platforms for communication and expression that empowers the building novel ideas and solutions for themselves and everyone using the network.

  • Amazon creates a transparent marketplace that learns to match an array of complex customers. These is a complex network that adapt to each customer and makes Amazon the most customer centered retailer on earth.

  • Facebook has fully embraced the complex network model and its ability to self-organize to achieve goals.

In every case, success with a complex problem in a complex environment comes from distributed solutions using complex networks that self-organize to achieve goals. It can be managed using network theory (a branch of discrete mathematics) to ensure each serves the purpose for which they were created. 

Such networks are small scale (sometimes scale-free) and create economies of scale and scope on both the demand and supply side. A successful network creates a virtuous cycle where the network succeeds by empowering its users and the user succeeds by taking advantage of a successful network.



[i] Max Boisot, Bill McKelvey, Complexity and Organization – Environment Relations: Revisiting Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety, The Sage Handbook of Complexity and Management. 

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