Complexity and Transition Management


Address correspondence to:
Jan Rotmans
DRIFT: Dutch Research Institute For Transitions
Erasmus University Rotterdam
P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam


This article presents a framework, transition management, for managing complex societal systems. The principal contribution of this article is to articulate the relationship between transition management and complex systems theory. A better understanding of the dynamics of complex, adaptive systems provides insight into the opportunities, limitations, and conditions under which it is possible to influence such systems. Transition management is based on key notions of complex systems theory, such as variation and selection, emergence, coevolution, and self-organization. It involves a cyclical process of phases at various scale levels: stimulating niche development at the micro level, finding new attractors at the macro level by developing a sustainability vision, creating diversity by setting out experiments, and selecting successful experiments that can be scaled up.