I try to read at least one work-related book every summer. Last year it was the disappointing Struck by Lightning and the slightly more satisfying and substantive Tipping Point. This year I have just finished reading Arthur Battram’s Navigating Complexity, which was a cult read some ten years ago, I think. Ummm… One of the blurbs describes it as an ‘easy-to-read overview’, and I suppose that just about sums it up. This is a book deliberately designed for the businessman’s shelf and occasionally for his bedside table. Everything is in bite-size morsels and Battram regurgitates in layman’s language a series of scientific discoveries and theories which may be of use as metaphors but cannot be of direct application. He clearly didn’t expect anybody to read the book through: we learn about coyotes in the Bronx, central heating systems as ‘closed’ systems and about Rank Xerox’s use of walkie-talkies three times each. There is also ghastly stuff like the following: ‘Possibility space is an extended metaphor for both the exploration of possibilities and the design of space for the creation of possibilities. One could say that fitness landscapes exist in a hilly part of possibility space.’ Quite. Notwithstanding this sort of pseudo-scientific blather, I confess to having enjoyed the book in bits. The central thesis of complex adaptive systems is a useful one. And I was happy to learn that I was already following his four concluding recommendations, including ‘be a wider reader’: ‘Broaden your range of inputs: read outside your field, read some fiction or even some science fiction… Look at the strangest things you’ve read and think how they might relate to the work of your organisation.’ Aye, aye, sir!