4th July 2018

Knowledge Type

Research paper



Major Project



Gina BowmanLynn Crawford

Of Interest To

Consultants Public sector clients Academia Private sector clients

Embracing Emergence: Problem Solving in Complex Projects


Managing within the unpredictable and complex environments of today’s projects calls for new competencies to help interpret and respond to problems. Quantum storytelling can play a powerful role in reinterpreting project concepts such as risks, and their resulting problems, by harnessing the properties of emergence. The reframing of problems is explored through a complexity lens and underpinned by stories from the international development sector.

The findings provide insight into how the project managers interviewed currently interpret problems and the resulting approaches to solving them. Their stories outline the themes that populate both the organizational and sectorial narrative of their projects.

The authors of the paper argue that traditional project methods apply control frames and behaviours through which to interpret concepts like problems, but in the real world, adaptable and flexible behaviours are required to tackle them as they evolve in the field. They determine that the traditional “plan and manage” contingency approach is not delivering to these project managers the competencies required to manage their projects.