Adapting Our View Of Complexity

“Don’t try to make it too simple too soon.  First, absorb the complexity of the situation, then start looking for simpler perspectives on it.”  -Geoff Bellman

It’s no longer enough to understand that today’s world is becoming much more intricate and complex. We have to come to grips with the idea that this complexity is providing a whole new set of problems and challenges that are beyond what we’ve been able to face and technically conquer in the near past. More and more adaptive problems and challenges are arising out of this complexity and promoting change in a much more rapid and unexpected manner.

It is no longer enough to just react to these radical shifts and changes, we have to learn how to adapt in much more agile and proactive fashion. We have to learn how to detect and connect the obscure and hidden dots that were much more visible in the technical and analytical world that we faced in the past. And we have to do it better and faster, especially as today’s technologically viral world has the tendency to coalesce and transform these dots into unforeseen challenges in rapid fashion.

As Stephen Haines shares, “Technological advances and global communications have shaped today’s dynamic environment, and in order to be successful, living systems—including you as an individual—have to adapt.”

We can no longer just focus on the parts and believe that we will create a well-functioning and healthy whole. Unfortunately, we still tend to approach the whole with an analytical, linear (parts) mindset and wonder why we continue to find ourselves blindsided by the unexpected and unanticipated outcomes. We continue to find ourselves baffled and bewildered by a myriad of unpredicted effects from decisions and directions made through a limited scope and short-term view.

Unfortunately the analytical, linear approach we take to our organizations does not prepare us for the adaptive challenges and problems that will continue to confront us in today’s complex, VUCA world. In fact, the complexities facing modern organizations is anything but neat and well-ordered. Rather, they are messy and uncertain. Which is disrupting the current approaches and leadership ‘best’ practices that have served us well in our organizational past. Methods that are no longer sufficient or effective towards the adaptive problems and challenges that we are and will be facing in the near future.

This is not to say that drawing simplicity out of the chaos and turbulence of complexity is not a significant focus, but inability to see the complexity from a 30,000 foot view will continue to alienate us from a holistic approach towards the complexities of today’s changing world.

Think of it like this…

If we continue to pull the tops off our weeds (while still leaving the roots), then we shouldn’t be surprised when the same weeds keep coming back time after time after time.

Building more structures and processes without understanding and creating better systems will leave us with the same roots (challenges/problems) that have continued to plague us over time. We continue to try and fix parts and believe it will provide a more fine-tuned whole. Unfortunately, in most cases, it creates a whole that functions less effectively. The more we tweak the parts, without having a deep understanding of the whole, the more havoc, challenges and unexpected problems we initiate across the system.

We need to push ourselves back from the short-term considerations that get in the way of long-term success.

Pulling back from this complexity heightens our sensitivity and awareness to how the parts and whole interact in more effective and interdependent ways. When we are able to see the dots and how they interrelate, we make better systems decisions.

We need a view that allows us to push through the noise, chaos and turbulence that is created from the complexity that encapsulates today’s modern world. Which is not an easy task.  It takes a wider, deeper approach. A different way of thinking, especially if we want to achieve different results and outcomes.

Today’s leaders will be responsible for cutting new paths through the noise created from the complexity that blocks and shrouds us from creating stronger and more effective systems.  Paths that are no longer linear or predictable. This new way of pioneering will require us to embark on unknown paths and engage in unforeseen journeys. Which will lead to new views and a new pace to deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity that we will face along the way.

“You can’t ignore the complexity of the world. You have to navigate it and build on it—then simplify it and then find its holistic and integrated core essence.”  -Stephen Haines


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