Plenary Lecture

Complexity and Action. A Cybernetics Perspective to Decision Making

Professor Gandolfo Dominici
Vice President and Scientific Director
Business Systems Laboratory (Italy)
Tenured Ass. Professor of Business Management
DEp. SEAS – University of Palermo

Abstract: The problem often faced by some approaches to complexity is that of the abstraction from the competition character of action. Man often is not rational, because of his cognitive limits, his heuristics of thought, and his passions of which the most dangerous is fear. To be aware that the world is complex and there is no way to forecast the future is something that can scare at the point to inhibit decision and necessary action.
Today there is a lot of talking about how the world, hence the markets, the social and business environment is complex, but few real proposals about what to do.
The temptation coming from reductionist models and the reason why they are still so strong in the managerial (mis)practice is that they are "reassuring”. Reductionist models are able to exorcise the fear of mistakes. The challenge is to find a “reassuring” alternative to reductionism. We need to develop new capacities to learn from the future as it emerges.
Cybernetics suggests two powerful tools to overcome this kind of fear and inhibition that are “feed-back” and “feed forward”. Feedback can be used as way of learning by doing or better learning by mistakes. But before making mistakes to learn we need to think, simplify complexity in mental schemes (as in Barthoz’s simplexity) and have a “feed-forward” of possible scenarios. To do so we need to develop prototypes to explore the future by doing something small and quickly that generates feedback from all the key stakeholders.
This theoretical paper examines how Cybernetics can help to overcome the fear of deciding under the uncertainty in complex scenarios and to be an effective tool for viability and competitiveness of the firms in the XXI century.

Brief Biography of the Speaker: Gandolfo Dominici is a PH.D. in Business Management at “Sapienza” University of Rome in 2004. In 2003 he was visiting researcher at the Faculty of Economics of Nagasaki University, Japan developing a research about the cultural roots of Japanese Toyota Production Systems.
Since 2005 he is Assistant Professor of Business Management at the University of Palermo (Italy), where from 2006 he holds the Chair of Marketing and from 2008 of Systems and Organizational Processes. He got his tenure at University of Palermo in 2008.
He is co-founder, Vice President and Scientific Director of the scientific nonprofit association Business Systems Laboratory ( He is author of about 40 published articles and books and member of the editorial board and reviewer of 12 international peer reviewed journals.
His main research interests are: Systems Thinking, Managerial Cybernetics, Organizational Science, Marketing, SCM and product development.