Roundtable Report

Harnessing Emergence in Complex Projects:
Rethinking Risk, Opportunity and Resilience

Harnessing Emergence in Complex Projects


The report Harnessing Emergence in Complex Projects: Rethinking Risk, Opportunity & Resilience features insights from the Roundtable Series conducted throughout 2020 to 2021. It combines the complementary expertise of ICCPM and its Series Partner, Queensland University of Technology; in particular their executive education division QUTeX. This report examines the important topic of emergence in complex projects.

Roundtable workshop participants were asked to consider how one might harness emergence and respond to uncertainty, risk and opportunity to successfully deliver large scale complex projects.

The report is the distillation of the contributions from events that hosted professionals across Australia, Canada, India, Europe and the UK. It draws on the experience of the participants and the expertise of ICCPM and the Series Partner, Queensland University of Technology, to present insights that individuals and organisations can use to improve their project performance.


Project Leadership: The game changer in large scale complex projects is an exclusive resource reserved for ICCPM Members.


On the 7th December 2021, the International Centre for Complex Project Management (ICCPM) and Series Partner Queensland University of Technology (QUTeX) launched the report Harnessing Emergence in Complex Projects: Rethinking Risk, Opportunity & Resilience. The launch was attended by members of the Capability Acquisition & Sustainment Group (CASG) as well as members of major industry service providers.

The Roundtable Series highlights ICCPM’s Thought Leadership initiative to help organisations improve the performance of complex projects by staying at the forefront of complex project leadership. Each workshop in the Series brought together experienced practitioners and senior academics from around the world. Participants discussed and shared their experience around the theme of “Emergence in Complex Projects.” Their valuable input has been collected in this report, producing new insights and practical steps for organisations to improve project outcomes.


The topic of ‘risk’ has been a recurring sub-theme in each of the previous Roundtable Reports, and one that appears to need further, and more detailed enquiry. The ability to understand and manage risk, as well as the ability to transform risk into opportunity, has a significant impact on organisational success. Risk within complex projects has the potential for even greater impact due to the highly interdependent and emergent nature of complex projects.

At a meeting of the ICCPM Corporate and Academic Partners held on the 20th September 2019, the idea of ‘risk‘ as the 2020 Roundtable topic was discussed. It was agreed that this would make a valuable contribution in the context of both government and private industry projects but it was decided that the focus should rather be placed on ‘emergence’ in complex projects as a broader more encompassing topic which better foregrounds risk, uncertainty and opportunity.


QUT is a leader in the field of Project Management and Complex Project Leadership (CPL) and has been an Academic Partner of ICCPM since its inception. Known as the ‘real world’ university, QUT brings broad subject matter expertise and their alumni represent a global community of high-profile practitioners.

Through the brand QUTeX, the University specialises in transdisciplinary education programs designed to develop and transform leaders and decision-making in the real world of complex, ambiguous and emergent environments. QUTeX provides industry with a single gateway to engage with the University, offering unified solutions across Business, Engineering, Health, Law, Science, Technology and Creative Industries. QUT has been a leading provider of multidisciplinary Complex Project Leadership education since 2007. For more information, visit the QUTeX webpage.


Assoc Prof John Bensley, Director Canberra, QUT Graduate School of Business

Associate Professor John Bensley is Director Canberra in the QUT Graduate School of Business with expertise in systems thinking, the management of innovation, product management and analytical psychology. John works with other University academics, Graduate School staff and industry professionals, to design, develop and deliver transdisciplinary education programs that meet the specific requirements of post-graduate students as well as a range of corporate and government clients. With more than 30 years management, marketing and operational experience from the mining and telecommunication industries his passion is understanding the determining effect of the human equation within organisations and helping people sense-make in complex environments.

Managing Director and CEO, ICCPM

Collin has over 23 years of commercial and management experience in a variety of senior roles across various industry sectors. Before moving to Australia, Collin spent 8 years as a Director and Principal Consultant for a boutique business transformation management consultancy in South Africa with a particular focus on strategy development and change management. Collin’s Australian experience includes working for Queensland University of Technology where his responsibilities included the program management of QUT’s Executive MBA in Complex Project Leadership in Canberra as well as a series of customised customer specific and public executive education courses. More recently, he was a Principal Consultant and business transformation practice lead for a local Canberra based consulting firm before joining ICCPM.

Dr Richard Barber, Managing Director, Risk IQ Global

Dr Richard Barber’s interest and expertise in risk and decision making began during his 29 years with the Australian Army, where he held senior leadership roles in engineering, logistic, training and projects. For more than 15 years, Richard has continued to develop new thinking and practice in the management of risk in complex project environments. He is the architect of “Organisational Risk Leadership” a modern applied system thinking approach to risk management with a strong focus on the quality of the work done before decisions are taken.

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