University of Technology Sydney

81514 Creativity and Complexity

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Creative Intelligence and Innovation: Transdisciplinary Innovation
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Requisite(s): 81513 Past, Present, Future of Innovation
There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


In this subject students probe the nature of a range of complex dynamic systems. In the process they explore ways to understand these systems including the use of natural language, mathematics, and multiple techniques for visual and temporal mapping. Through undertaking a series of projects, students are challenged to creatively and rigorously test key qualities they have identified in various complex dynamic systems.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Analyse and map systems, organisations and individuals utilising language, principles and tools of complexity.
2. Draw from different perspectives, schools of thought and philosophical positions to investigate the assumptions that are intentionally and unintentionally formed and applied when framing complex challenges.
3. Discern the basic features, processes and practices that differentiate complex systems from complicated, simple and chaotic.
4. Apply appropriate tools, processes and/or frameworks strategically to identify where creative interventions are most helpful in moving the system towards desirable futures.
5. Generate creative outcomes or creatively communicate new understandings of complex problem situations.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject contributes specifically to the development of the following course intended learning outcomes:

  • Identify and represent the components and processes within complex systems and organise them within frameworks of relationships (CII.1.1)
  • Select, apply and evaluate various techniques and technologies for investigating and interpreting complex systems (CII.1.2)
  • Discern common qualities of complex systems and model their behaviour (CII.1.3)
  • Test the value of different patterns, frameworks and methods for exploring and addressing complex challenges (CII.2.4)
  • Use a range of appropriate media, tools, techniques and methods creatively and critically in multi-disciplinary teams to discover, investigate, design, produce and communicate ideas or artefacts (CII.3.3)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

The subject provides opportunities for you as a student to explore, apply and evaluate various principles, frameworks and tools of complexity in order to investigate and interpret complex challenges from multiple perspectives. You apply various techniques and approaches to map a complex problem situation and identify strategic and creative intervention points that have the potential to move the system towards desirable futures

So your experiences as a student in this subject support you to develop the following graduate attributes (GA):

  • GA 1 Complex systems thinking
  • GA 2 Create value in problem solving and inquiry
  • GA 3 Inter- and trans-disciplinary practiceso

Teaching and learning strategies

Learning takes place in a collaborative, immersive, experiential, studio-based environment. Students work individually and in teams and receive ongoing feedback from academics and professionals across a wide range of disciplines.

Content (topics)

  • Complexity principles, frameworks, philosophies
  • Systems thinking and complexity theory
  • Creative interventions in complex systems


Assessment task 1: 'Think complexly'


This assessment task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 3 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

CII.1.1, CII.1.3 and CII.3.3

Type: Exercises
Groupwork: Group, group and individually assessed
Weight: 50%

Assessment task 2: Systems interventions


This assessment task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 4 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

CII.1.1, CII.1.2, CII.2.4 and CII.3.3

Type: Project
Groupwork: Group, group and individually assessed
Weight: 50%

Minimum requirements

Students must attempt each assessment task and achieve an overall pass mark in order to pass this subject.

Late penalties apply to all assessment tasks as outlined in the FTDi FYI student booklet. Please consult this booklet for other useful information including Special Consideration, Plagiarism, Extension, and Student Support Services.

A minimum of 80% of attendance of classes (as outlined in the timetable) is required.

Required texts

Please check UTSonline for these texts and other recommendations.

Snowden, D.J. and Boone, M.E., 2007. ‘A leader's framework for decision making.’ Harvard Business Review, 85(11), p.68

Casti, J.L., 1994. ‘The Simple and the complex. Realities, rules and surprises,’ in Complexification. Explaining a Paradoxical World Through the Science of Surprise. HarperCollins Publishers, pp.2-42

Latour, B., 2018. Down to Earth: Politics in the new climatic regime. John Wiley & Sons.

Carpenter, S., Arrow, K., Barrett, S., Biggs, R., Brock, W., Crépin, A.S., Engström, G., Folke, C., Hughes, T., Kautsky, N. and Li, C.Z., 2012. General resilience to cope with extreme events. Sustainability, 4(12), pp.3248-3259.

Maani, K. and Cavana, R.Y., 2007. ‘Introducing systems thinking’ and ‘Systems methodology,’ in Systems thinking, system dynamics: Managing change and complexity. Prentice Hall. pp. 2-27

Capra, F., 1996. ‘From the parts to the whole,’ in The web of life: a new scientific understanding of living systems. (1st Anchor Books ed.), pp.17-35

Gray, D. and Vander Wal, T.. 2014. ‘Complexity changes the game,’ and ‘What is a connected company,’ in The connected company. O'Reilly Media, Inc. pp. 68-118

Montuori, A. 2011. ‘Systems Approach,’ in Runco MA, and Pritzker S.R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Creativity, Second Edition, vol.2, Elsevier. pp. 414-421

Other resources

Complexity Academy – Youtube Channel

Complexity – schools of thought - map:

7 Principles of intervention in complex systems – David Snowden:

David Snowden on safe-to-fail experiments:

Review of Policy Measures to Stimulate Private Demand for Innovation. Concepts and Effects, Nesta Working Paper Series 13/13, Jakob Elder

Senate Innovation System Inquiry interim report and issues paper now released