Summary of Surfing the Edge of Chaos

The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business

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Surfing the Edge of Chaos book summary
A new complex systems model based on biology has a lot to teach managers about making their companies.


7 Overall

7 Applicability

7 Innovation

7 Style


Managers should closely watch new discoveries in biology, especially the study of self-organization and emergence, particularly as the old hierarchical model of corporate organization becomes seemingly obsolete. Richard T. Pascale, Mark Millemann and Linda Gioja present case histories showing how corporate leaders executed turnarounds and solved critical problems by tapping the insight and intelligence of their organizations’ members. In many cases, however, their success was only partial. It is to the authors' credit that they do not flinch from describing failures, even as they support the approach. They particularly note that stress can have the positive effect of forcing an organization to change its behavior. Though they first published their observations in 2000, some of their insights seem likely to endure the test of time. getAbstract recommends this book in confidence that executives can learn from its concepts about how natural systems can inform management.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How understanding biology's living systems can inform the practice of management; and
  • How to use your employees' collective intelligence in your organization’s “complex adaptive system.”


“Complexity Science”
New scientific discoveries are changing how society understands its environment. Scientific discoveries since Newton have influenced how people perceive organizations. Darwin's insights had a great impact upon economics and management, especially as Herbert Spencer...
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About the Authors

Richard T. Pascale is the co-author of The Art of Japanese Management and author of Managing on the Edge. Mark Millemann has extensive experience consulting with global companies. Linda Gioja consults with executives, and leads dialogues and national policy forums at the Aspen Institute and for the California Environmental Dialogue.

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