Dynamics in Action

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Alicia Juarrero is routinely identified as sitting alongside Max Boisot and Paul Cilliers as one of the key influences behind what we now know as the theory and praxis of Naturalising Sense-making. Her more famous contributions to Anthro-complexity include the designation of a complex system as “like a bramble bush in a thicket” and the notion of enabling constraints.[1] Her Dynamics in Action text is recommended reading for anyone involved in the field.

Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System
AuthorAlicia Juarrero
CountryUnited States
PublisherMIT Press


“Michael Lissack ran up to me and said you have got to read this book. He wrote down Juarrero Dynamics in Action and that was one of the most important books I read, and one of the most significant people in the field I have had the privilege to get to know and work with. Safe-to-fail, constraints, and intentionality in Naturalising Sense-Making all owe a lot to Alicia.”

— Dave Snowden, Early complexity influences[2], Cognitive Edge Blog

The blurb famously opens with "What is the difference between a wink and a blink?" and this 1999 publication goes on to propose a framework for understanding action and responsibility that is based on complex adaptive systems. Over two decades later, the text remains an excellent way into dynamical constraints, bottom-up and top-down causal relations and more.

Dynamics in Action: PDF

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Key themes

  • Inter-level causality