5 Managing the Unexpected: Complexity as Distributed Sensemaking

  • Karl E. Weick
Section II Central Themes on Uncertainty and Surprise
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)


In 1998 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a statement of their strategy entitled “Preventing Emerging Infectious Diseases: A Strategy for the 21st Century.” They described their central challenge this way: “because we do not know what new diseases will arise, we must always be prepared for the unexpected” (p. vii). Soon after they published that statement CDC was confronted with an unexpected emerging disease, the West Nile Virus, which they misdiagnosed initially.


West Nile Virus Automatic Thinking Task Interdependence Control Thinking Reciprocal Interdependence 
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Authors and Affiliations

  • Karl E. Weick
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Michigan 

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