I have long been fascinated with the idea of oscillation, as a means to understand the difference between the human condition, in the form of fluid creativity, context – and the machine disposition of rigid, knowns processes. This supported my rejection of artificial general intelligence and keeping analog thinking as a personal passion of mine.

This week I found myself intuitively jotting down the idea that oscillation = agency. Maybe one of those rare points that complexity scientists, practitioners of mindfulness, and leadership trainers could agree. Moving fast in and of itself is not enough to self–lead. Fast chases its tail. Oscillation is the ability of oneself to find the best strategy, followed by tactics and learning.


This lead me to discover* Panarchy.


The adaptive cycle (from Panarchy, edited by Lance H. Gunderson and C.S. Holling: Figure 2-1 (page 34). Copyright © 2002 Island Press. Reproduced by permission of Island Press, Washington, DC). 

Panarchy is a conceptual framework to account for the dual, and seemingly contradictory, characteristics of all complex systems – stability and change. 
Change is neither continuous and gradual, nor continuously chaotic. It is episodic, regulated by interactions between fast and slow variables


One of the core propositions of Panarchy Theory is that complex systems undergo cycles of renewal and collapse. This feels timely for a COVID world, in both our collective rebuilt and the individual need for reinvention.


This video on Trophic Cascades is worth your time and attention.


More on this in the coming weeks and months, 

Thank you for reading.



* Thank you Susan for the introduction to the concept, and Lisa for the introduction to Susan.


  • Allen, Craig R., David G. Angeler, Ahjond S. Garmestani, Lance H. Gunderson, and C. S. Holling. “Panarchy: Theory and Application.” Ecosystems 17, no. 4 (2014): 578–89. Accessed May 10, 2020.

  • Liberating Structures, Panarchy

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