Book Reviews: Manage Complexity & Social Network Analysis

Felix (@felixankel)  is back with two more (related) books for your CE library.  As always, if you have something you would like us to review, please leave a comment.

– Jonathan


Tues post_edgeware.jpgEdgeware: Lessons from Complexity Science for Health Care Leaders

Zimmerman B, C Lindberg and P Plsek. 1998. Edgeware: Lessons from Complexity Science for Health Care Leaders. VHA Incorporated.

Competency-based medical education has roots in the Dreyfus brothers’ work on expertise. In their book Mind Over Machine,  the brothers suggest that humans could manage decisions that cannot be replicated by computers. Edgeware serves as a guide for individuals or groups (systems) to develop expertise in complex environments. The increasing complexity of health care and medical education challenges CEs in many areas, including the recruitment of faculty, the assessment of learners and the evaluation of programs. Edgeware introduces CEs to a skill set to help manage complexity using three principles:

  • alignment (leadership),
  • separation (management), and
  • cohesion (communication).

The book goes on to describe the phenomenon of emergence, where the value of relationships between individuals is higher than the value of the individuals.  Emergence results from attention to the principles above.

You may also find that this video on milestones complements this reading.


Lipsitz LA. Understanding health care as a complex system: the foundation for unintended consequences. JAMA. 2012 Jul 18;308(3):243-4

A review of this book also appeared in the February 2013 version of the ICENet newsletter.


Social Network Analysis

John Scott 2000. Social Network Analysis. SAGE publications.

Traditional hierarchical education administration networks are slowly being replaced by “flat”, interconnected, complex education networks.  With an emphasis on criterion-based outcomes, understanding these complex networks is challenging.

Social network analysis(SNA) is a useful tool to address this issue.

Social Network Analysis is a primer on how to formally evaluate networks.  Scott’s book gives a historical context on the field of SNA, outlines the language to describe networks, and offers a review of software packages that will perform analyses. It is  a dense read for people outside of the field of SNA, but it provides a solid introduction for interested CEs.

Want to know more? A longer review of  this book appeared in the April 2013 version of the ICENet newsletter.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons