Developing A Complexity Mindset

These days, it’s fair to say the United States, as well as the world writ large, is struggling with a number of complex issues. Problems like mass migration, globalization, ethnic and religious conflicts, socioeconomic inequalities, accelerating technological change, and polarizing political ideologies.

In another TLO thought paper (Lost in the 21st Century) I offer an extensive list of all these issues, suggesting that, both individually and collectively, each of them is so complex that they’re simply overwhelming our ability to cope with the challenges they’re presenting us.

Does it seem that way to you?

Especially now when, on top of everything else, we’re struggling with the coronavirus.

If the coronavirus pandemic tells us anything meaningful about how to think about the complex problems we’re facing, it’s surely telling us that we need to WAKE UP!

With its ‘out-of-the-blueness,’ its life-threatening impact, and its overall unpredictability, I think the coronavirus is telling us that right now, because of the radical complexity it’s showing us, we need to WAKE UP and start questioning our ability to understand and respond to this virus. Especially its secondary consequences.

Likewise, we need to realize that we have to approach all the other complex problems with similar characteristics, dynamics, and consequences that come our way with an open mind and serious questions.

The Coronavirus Message

There are, this virus is saying to us, no simple answers for the issues we’ll be facing in the years to come. Simple modes of thinking, and our bias for quick fixes won’t help us address the complex problems we’re facing now.

Does it seem that way to you?

Isn’t a WAKE UP call one of the things we ought to take away from the last several years?



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Dave Nicoll

Dave Nicoll

A senior citizen. I’ve started a new life here in Seattle and am truly gratefull for this new chapter. Reach me at