Theses for the New World of the 21st Century

Excerpt from Malik, Fredmund: Corporate Policy and Governance. Volume 2 of the series „Management: Mastering Complexity“. Frankfurt/Main: Campus, 2011. p.54f.


I summarized observations which I find to be most important for the 21st century into 14 theses. They are the landmarks for understanding global occurrences, classifying medial news coverage, assessing people’s behavior and for navigating, developing and designing complex systems effectively – that is to say to manage them.


  1. Although the complex systems of the 21st century resulted from the successes of the 20th century’s mindset and methods, they can no longer be managed by these because the systems have become far too complex at a global level.
  2. The 21st century has already brought with it a more radical change to the deep structures than can be seen at the surface. It is not just a paradigm change that is taking place but a change of the categories in which we perceive paradigms as such.
  3. The categorical dimensions of the new conception of the world are complexity, system, functioning, control, self-organization, information, non-linearity, knowledge, and cognition.
  4. Global societies are transforming themselves into societies of complexity – in steps by which they change from a society of individuals to a society of organizations to a society of systems – of complex systems. Because of their complexity they have intrinsic dynamics that call for fundamentally different management than previously.
  5. Knowledge has become more important than time or energy, information more important than money, the ability of companies to self-organize purposefully more important than power.
  6. The knowledge that is relevant for the working of this society comes from the sciences of complexity: cybernetics, systems theory, and bionics. It is by the application of this knowledge that we achieve the relevant cognition.
  7. The crucial challenge to be mastered in order to work successfully in the 21st century is complexity. The most important skill is the ability to master and make use of complexity. The most important function to achieve that skill is cybernetic management. The most important means of achieving it is cybernetic corporate policy. The most important prerequisite for it is conditions for self-organization that exploit the intrinsic dynamics of complex systems and enable people to manage themselves.
  8. The most important effect of corporate policy of this kind is as a Master Control for self-organizing, self-regulating, self-directing complex systems.
  9. Depending on the organization, the center of complexity and starting point for Master Controls is the customer, the client, the patient, the student, the voter – in short, anyone who needs the organization’s services and who pays for them in some way. An organization cannot be successful unless it provides the recipients of its services with effective solutions for mastering complexity.
  10. The era of arbitrariness of and in management is over: cybernetics is establishing the laws and standards that are scientifically imperative for effective management in the age of complexity. Along with it, what is also coming to an end is the era of randomness-based opportunism, as has been found in management consulting services of all categories.
  11. There will only be two groups of people left: firstly, there will be those who only perceive the old in the new, no longer being able to understand enough, because they have ignored the past decades‘ findings about the world, reality, systems, and information. Secondly, there will be those who recognize the new for what it is and make use of it, because they have been watching this development closely and grasped its meaning long before its impact could be felt.
  12. The social institutions of today will undergo an REvolution or disappear altogether, because they have become unmanageable and no longer fulfill their purposes. Difficulties with financing are merely a symptom of their malfunction: Its cause is the lack of right management – management that is suitable for dealing with complexity.
  13. While government policy will continue to be important in the new global society, in its present-day form it will increasingly be a source of disruption, hindrance, and restraint. Today’s political parties no longer serve any purposes because the ability of social systems to function does not depend on any party colors or ideology. There is no right or left, only right or wrong.
  14. The key ability for human beings in the society of complexity is mastering professional management and self-management. It will have the same significance for social survival, as well as for the viability of any society and its ability to evolve, as reading and writing have had for the transition from illiterate bond slave to politically mature citizen. Solid cybernetic management will be the functioning and cultural ability of the society of complexity.


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