Complex Thinking, Complex Practice: The Case for a Narrative Approach to Organizational Complexity
Complexity is not only a feature of the systems we study, it is also a matter of the way in which we organize our thinking about those systems. This second-order complexity invites consideration of the modes of thinking we use to theorize about complexity, and in this article we develop the idea of second-order complexity using Jerome Bruner’s contrast between logico-scientific and narrative modes of thinking. Using Bruner’s framework, we examine and critique domi-nant forms of thinking about organizational complexity that are rooted in the logico-scientific mode, and suggest alternatives based in the narrative mode. Our evidence for the value of doing this comes from the logic of complexity theory itself, which we claim indi-cates and supports the use of the narrative mode. The potential con-tribution of the narrative approach to developing second-order thinking about organizational complexity is demonstrated by taking a narrative approach to the matter of recursiveness. By extension, similar insights are indicated for other features that logico-scientific thinkers commonly attribute to complex systems, including, non-linearity, indeterminacy, unpredictability and emergence.