Complexity is a measure of the total amount of
structured information (which is measured in bits) that is contained
within a system and reflects many of its fundamental properties, such
as:

- Potential - the ability to evolve, survive
- Functionality - the set of distinct functions the system is able to perform
- Robustness - the ability to function correctly in the presence of endogenous/exogenous uncertainties

In biology, the above can be combined in one single property known as

**fitness**.

Like any mathematically sound metric our complexity
metric is bounded (metrics that can attain infinite values are
generally not so useful). The upper bound, which is of great interest,
is called

**critical complexity**and tells us how far the system can go with its current structure.Because of the existence of critical complexity, complexity itself is a relative measure. This means that all statements, such as, "this system is very complex, that one is not", are without value until you refer complexity to its corresponding bounds. Each system in the Universe has its own complexity bounds, in addition to its current value. Because of this a small company can, in effect, be relatively more complex than a large one, precisely because it operates closer to

**its own complexity limit**. Let us see a hypothetical example.

Imagine two companies: one is very large, the other
small. Suppose each one operates in a multi-storey building and that
each one is hiring new employees. Imagine also that the small company
has reached the limit in terms of office space while the larger company
is constantly adding new floors. This is illustrated in the figure
below.

In this hypothetical situation, the smaller company
has reached its maximum capacity and adding new employees will only
make things worse. It is critically complex and, with its current
structure, it cannot grow - it has reached its physiological growth
limit and can do two things:

Complexity is a disease of our modern times (more or less like high cholesterol, which is often consequence of our lifestyles). Globalisation, technology, or uncertainty in the economy are making life complex and it is increasing the complexity of businesses themselves. An apparently healthy business may hide (but not for long!) very high complexity. Just like very high cholesterol levels are rarely a good omen, the same may be said of high complexity. This is why companies should run a complexity health-check on a regular basis.

So, the next time you hear someone say that something is complex, ask them about critical complexity. It's all relative!

- "Add more floors" (this is equivalent to increasing its critical complexity - one way to achieve this is via acquisitions or mergers)
- Restructure the business

Complexity is a disease of our modern times (more or less like high cholesterol, which is often consequence of our lifestyles). Globalisation, technology, or uncertainty in the economy are making life complex and it is increasing the complexity of businesses themselves. An apparently healthy business may hide (but not for long!) very high complexity. Just like very high cholesterol levels are rarely a good omen, the same may be said of high complexity. This is why companies should run a complexity health-check on a regular basis.

So, the next time you hear someone say that something is complex, ask them about critical complexity. It's all relative!