Surprise can emanate from two sources: lack of sufficient information or knowledge and the basic dynamics of complex adaptive systems. The authors expand the traditional view of surprise with a complexity perspective that makes it possible to ask new questions and to consider new ways of understanding the world around us. They discuss creativity and learning as two strategies for capitalizing on the surprises that confront organizations.
Reuben R. McDaniel, Jr., Ed.D., is the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Regents Chair in Health Care Management, McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin.
Michelle E. Jordan, M.A., is an Elementary School Teacher, Blanton Elementary School, Austin Independent School District, Austin, Texas.
Brigitte F. Fleeman, Ph.D., is a Research Associate, Department of Educational Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin.
Many of the ideas in this article were first presented at the VHA "On the Verge Forum," held October 18-21, 2000 in Chicago, Illinois. We extend special thanks to Dean Driebe and Karl Weick for their comments on an earlier draft. Thanks to William Miller, Ben Crabtree and John Pierce who each gave feedback on the first presentation of these ideas. Thanks also to many participants in executive education programs who listened to many of these ideas and give very useful feedback.