Edgeware - Principles


When Life Is Far From Certain, Lead With Clockware And Swarmware In Tandem.

Balance data and intuition, planning and acting, safety and risk, giving due honor to each.


Wizards & CEOs
Another way to think
A complexity tool box
Emerges from the fabric
Make it or let it




Stacey matrix

clockware“Clockware” is a term, coined by Kevin Kelly, that describes the management processes we all know that involve operating the core production processes of the organization in a manner that is rational, planned, standardized, repeatable, controlled and measured. In contrast, Kelly’s term “swarmware” refers to management processes that explore new possibilities through experimentation, trials, autonomy, freedom, intuition and working at the edge of knowledge and experience. Good-enough vision, minimum specifications and metaphor are examples of swarmware that we have already seen. The idea is to say just enough to paint a picture or describe the absolute boundaries, and then let the people in the CAS become active in trying whatever they think might work.

"For jobs where supreme control is demanded, good old clockware is the way to go. Where supreme adaptability is required, out-of-control swarmware is what you want."

"Cohesive teams are needed for day-to-day issues. Spontaneous learning networks that have open conflict and dialogue are vital to handling strategic issues."

In an informed approach to complexity, it is not a question of saying that one is good and the other is bad. The issue is about finding an appropriate mix for a given situation. Where the world is certain and there is a high level of agreement among agents (for example, the need for consistent variable names and programming language syntax in a large software system, or the activities in the operating room during a routine surgery) clockware is appropriate. In a clockware situation, agents give up some of their freedom and mental models to accomplish something they have collectively agreed upon. The CAS displays less emergent, creative behavior, and begins to act more like a machine. There is nothing wrong with this.

However, where the world is far from certainty and agreement (near the edge of chaos) swarmware is needed with its adaptability, openness to new learning and flexibility. Swarmware is also needed in situations for which the old clockware processes are no longer adequate for accomplishing the purpose, in situations for which the purpose has changed or in situations in which creativity is desirable for its own sake.


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Lindberg, Complexity Management, VHA Inc. Permission to copy for educational
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