Showing posts from May, 2014

Coffee, LEGO movies, questionnaires, and complexity theory

I recently had a cup of coffee with a friend, and the discussion turned to the difference between complicated and complex , and why the difference is important. I have had reason to think about that recently, so I had a couple of examples fresh in my mind, both relating to questionnaires and surveys. As it turns out, many questionnaires you are asked to fill out have a common design mistake: The assumption that the subject under investigation is complicated, rather than complex. It is an easy mistake to make. The result is increased risk that the survey points you in the wrong direction. Let's briefly define what we are talking about before digging in to the meat of the matter: Complicated systems have many parts, but they also have predictable cause and effect relationships. For example, a mechanical watch is complicated. It is also predictable. It runs like...well, it runs like clockwork. Complex systems have parts that can adapt to the behavior of other pa