We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto: Mapping the strange landscape of complexity theory, and its relationship to project management
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Recent scientific investigations into the behavior of complex dynamical systems are revealing insights that have major implications for expanding the uncodified, prevailing Cartesian/Newton/Enlightenment paradigm which underpins project management practice and research, insights amounting to new ways of thinking and talking about managing complexity and managing projects in ways that may resolve the intractable problems plaguing certain areas of project management. This paper examines a conceptual framework for understanding the complex responsive processes of relating (CRPR), a means of talking about how human beings interact and learn and how their interactions evolve over time and across space, discussing it specifically in relation to the lived experiences of project teams delivering complex projects. In doing so, it discusses the way that language shapes meaning and the way that paradigms shape practice and research; it overviews the evolution of complexity theory, describing the significant theories (Butterfly Effect, Strange Attractors, Fractals, Edge of Chaos, among others) that have contributed to its emerging paradigm. It also explains the implications of using this paradigm for project management practice and research. It then discusses the theoretical foundations of CRPR, detailing how it can evolve the current thinking on managing projects. It also suggests three potential new directions for project management research.