Last Thursday night, I taught my last class for the semester on The Network Economy. One of my favorite courses, it strives to explain, as well as transcend, some of the anomalies of neoclassical economics, by considering what other theoretical/disciplinary perspectives might have to say about the economy. I ask the students not necessarily to buy into the theories, but rather to try each of them on for size, to see if they fit the situation at hand, and add new insights to their understanding of the complex array of events taking place about them.
So, over the course of the semester, we take a tour, and work our way through the territory of behavioral economics, socioeconomics, Schumpterâ€™s reasoned history, innovation theory, transaction cost economics, networking, complexity theory, as well as evolutionary economics. Â We bring all of these theories together in our last class, when we read the final section of EricÂ Beinhockerâ€™s The Creation of Wealth. As my students and I discussed, this book is not only an introduction to complexity economics, it isâ€“-at one and the same timeâ€“-a good guide for living in the modern world.
. . . this book is not only an introduction to complexity economics, it is–at one and the same time–a good guide for living in the modern world.
Although, in his book, Beinhocker aims to characterize complexity, and it relevance for the world today, his message is decidedly simple and straightforward: Do not put all your eggs in one basket! Experiment instead, he says.
Accordingly, businesses should avoid committing themselves to one big strategic plan, based on a linear projection of how the future may unfold. To the contrary, business must embrace uncertainty, spreading their resources across a variety a strategies, which are flexible enough so that, if necessary, they can be easily scraped Â or readily adapted to meet the demands of changing contingencies. Likewise, individuals must prepare themselves for an uncertain future by appropriating a wide variety of talents and skills and investing in a process of life long learning. In the same fashion, government policy makers must work at one and the same time on a variety of fronts, developing strategies that can be employed under a number of diverse circumstances. As importantly, in each of these situations, these experimental approaches must be structured so as to provide constant feedback and learning, which can then be incorporated into future strategies.
While teaching my Thursday might class, I was suddenly struck by the realization of how well the Communication Culture and Technology Program adheres to Beinhocker’s guiding principles. Â For example, our course offerings are modular components, which together comprise one of seven potential clusters of interests. Â Students draw upon these course offering to develop a curriculum that is uniquely suited to their needs. Â Like complexity, the process is non-linear. Students rarely end up in the place, or mind set, where they started. Â One might even say that their interests co-evolve together with the course material, insofar as they learn what they like as they go, and mix and match courses to build out a unique curriculum of their own. Equally important–at least from my point of view–they learn to draw on a wide range of disciplines with the greatest of ease.
I am always saddened when a class come to an end. In the Network Economy Class, we were just getting to know one another. Fortunately, there is another semester, and another year. I look forward to seeing you all at CCT, whether as a student, an alumni, or just out of curiosity.