Complexity and Tight Coupling

In complex systems such as those in which we live and interact, there are often many relationships and interconnections. It is difficult to believe that anything happens in a vacuum, or that there is a single cause for every event.  In fact, global networks (human and technological), markets, financial systems and more are tightly woven together in ways we have yet to visualize or imagine.

This concept of interdependency or tight coupling means that small ripples in the global pond can become a tsunami elsewhere.  Complexity is really all around us, all we have to do is observe and piece the puzzle together. The following columns explore these concepts through the eyes of risk management, global supply chains, social network analysis, contagion and more.

The New Risk – Tight Coupling

With the global integration of trade, capital, information and labor over the past decade, few people understand that our world is more tightly connected than ever before. In a highly inter-dependent environment, small mistakes can have large ramifications.  Read more

Recognizing the Signs of Contagion

Think back to January 2008. Was your company prepared for the coming financial crisis that would happen later that year with Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers collapsing? Even better, look further back to April 2, 2007 when New Century Financial (one of the biggest body shops for sub-prime mortgages) filed for bankruptcy. Did you see the warning signs? Now if you didn’t, please don’t feel too bad. Most economists also missed the signs of contagion. Read more

Five Strategies for Surviving Contagion

In a tightly interdependent global economy, information is exchanged everyday between people, communication networks and computers. When contagion swirls, five strategies can help marketing executives control the damage and even take advantage of chaotic circumstances. Read more

The Power of Process

More often than not, “suddenly” actually occurs over long stretches of time where small events build up and lead up (via a process) to an instantaneous transition. Read more

What’s in Your Supply Chain?

Some progressive companies are engaging in a purposeful effort to build effective policies (including auditing), technologies (supply chain analytics and infrastructure) and processes to track and monitor the extended supply chain. Read more

Reputation Management Not Needed …Until It’s Needed

Internet and social media technologies that transmit events, news and crisis accounts—at the speed of light—aren’t going away. To succeed in such an environment, companies must invest in the softer functions even when “payback” doesn’t appear imminent. Read more

What Does Risk Control and a Thanksgiving Turkey Have in Common?

To forecast the future, marketing leaders often look to the past. But the past isn’t always a very reliable gauge of future conditions. For proof, we need to look back to a day-in-the-life of a turkey, and implications of not preparing for possible “extreme” events around the corner. Read more and this article.

Perishing for Lack of Vision

In forecasting the financial crisis of 2008 and beyond, most marketers (and economists for that matter) failed to accurately “call” the collapse, even though signs of catastrophe were ubiquitous.  Read more

Social Network Analysis – Hype or Help?

Social network analysis (SNA) is helping companies map and understand the links, associations and possibly behaviors of customers and employees. In the following hypothetical situation, we’ll explore the ramifications of using social network analysis in marketing processes and attempt to discern if SNA is “hype” or a valuable tool. Read more

Is the Speed of Decision Making Accelerating?

As the forces of globalization continue to connect and intertwine commercial and financial markets, and new technologies come online in the marketplace, the time between “event” and “action” is rapidly closing. Read more

Unintended Consequences of Combining Speed and Technology 

Technology is often hailed as innovation vehicle, productivity booster, and enabler of a higher standard of living for all global citizens. However, the field of finance provides an interesting backdrop for what happens when an industry is pushed to its technological limits in the pursuit of automation and speed.  Read more

Too Much Complexity in the Cloud?

There are risks in the cloud, especially in the public cloud where business and news media regale with case studies of data loss, security issues, failed backups and more. Perhaps one reason that public clouds are prone to failure—and perhaps always will be—is that some analysts consider these environments to be complex and tightly coupled.  And if indeed this is the case, then IT buyers must consider that failure isn’t only possible, it’s inevitable.  Read more

From Complexity and Simplicity in the Cloud

The inner workings of cloud computing can be quite complex. That’s why the founders of Dropbox are on the right path—make cloud computing as simple as possible with easy to understand user-interfaces to mask “behind the scenes” infrastructure and connections.  Read more



  1. actually, it’s a myth that no one saw the crisis of 2008 coming. Jim Puplava of Financial Sense saw it. Problem was, he didn’t know WHEN it would come, so the prediction was of little worth. This is a problem of mass behavior, or “coupling” as you call it. To be successful in investing, you have to follow momentum until the right time to “jump ship”. Hmmm, follow till you stop following!

    • Steve, there were a few that saw it coming. Taleb and Roubini come to mind. However, i don’t think it’s fair to say that because they didn’t know when it was of little worth. In fact, I am sure they advised all their clients and friends to get out of the market and saved themselves and their friends millions. The trick of course is knowing exactly when the market will break and no one can predict the day/hour. That said, it’s getting easier to read the warning signs on the way to the bridge being out!

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