Fabricatore, Carlo and López, Ximena (2015) Higher education in a complex world: nurturing “chaordic” influencers. In: Sixth Advanced International Colloquium on Building the Scientific Mind (BtSM2015), 2015, 17-21 August, São Raimundo Nonato & Serra da Capivara, Piauí, Brazil. (Unpublished)

We live in a world driven by dynamics that challenge and very often defeat traditional reductionist approaches to ethics and problem solving (Weaver, 1948; Rittel & Webber, 1973). This is a world constantly animated by global changes resulting from the interplay of local events. No matter how apparently small, limited, and insignificant the local events may seem, the effects emerging from their interplay are often massive, and seldom predictable and controllable (McDaniel & Driebe, 2005; Miller & Page, 2007). We live in a world permeated by complexity.
This world, our world, is the realm of wicked problems, which cannot be fully described, have no “stopping rule”, no “template solution”, nor definitive description. In fact, wicked problems defy resolution, because of interdependencies, uncertainties, circularities, and conflicting stakeholders, and because they are often symptoms of other problems (Rittel & Webber, 1973).
The inability to cope with complexity leads inevitably to succumbing to wicked problems, with tragic consequences for human development. Those consequences include environmental emergencies, geopolitical crises, cultural decline, epidemics, and more. Ebola outbreaks, migration control problems, the rise of Islamic State, global warming, and more. These and other issues are part of the drama of complexity, within which we play as key actors, willing or not. A drama that becomes stark tragedy whenever we fail to timely identify and act upon complex dynamics that may lead to chaotic consequences, and are irreversibly detrimental to the future of our global community.
The plot of the drama of complexity is not set. It unfolds based on a dynamic, constantly changing script — but it is one that we can co-author. As actors and co-authors, we can lead the drama to favourable outcomes, influencing complex dynamics to our benefit, as individuals and collectives. This demands the ability to understand and act while “surfing the edge of chaos” (Pascale, 1999); this edge is a dimension in which apparent disorganisation is in fact a manifestation of multiple possibilities to facilitate the emergence of desirable - albeit temporary - order (Beinhocker, 1997). It is here that we have the ability to be “chaordic” influencers. “Chaordic” is a portmanteau word, allying the ideas of chaos and order into one.


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