“The creativity and adaptability of life expresses itself through the spontaneous emergence of novelty at critical points of instability. Every human organization contains both designed and emergent structures. The challenge is to find the right balance between the creativity of emergence and the stability of design.” -Fritjof Capra
Awareness in a world of accelerated and exponential change has not only become a necessity, it is a defining leadership skillset in the midst of today’s complex and often chaotic environments. For, today’s leaders must be much more cognizant of, and detecting of the often faint signals of innovative opportunities flickering out on the organizational horizons. Awareness of what is emerging, as well as what is preparing to emerge, and the impact of that emergence, often serves as a slim differentiator between ongoing relevance or future obsolescence.
Awareness of these emerging opportunities remind us that we are continuously introducing new and often novel elements into our complex systems, requiring greater creativity and willingness to lean more comfortably into growing levels of ambiguity and uncertainty. Which in turn assists us in gaining new perspectives and realizations that both as individuals and organizations, the path forward is growing less and less static, less and less linear, less and less certain, and less and less known. Which will ultimately require new behaviors, new skillsets, new capacities, and new thinking at all levels of the organizational ecosystem if we are to deal more effectively with the growing complexity that is arising from the continuous and often volatile change that it provokes. As Otto Scharmer shares, “The business that leaders are in today, is the business of transforming awareness… There is deep longing for more meaning, for connections.”
Which becomes especially salient in the midst of today’s modern complex systems where the capacity for emergence is ever present. Being proactive towards and having greater awareness of the signals arising amidst the growing complexity and chaos allows leaders and the organization to create the cognitive space to step back, reflect, and determine the innovative opportunities that are or may be emerging, both internally and externally. Which is vitally important as leaders and organizations become more and more reactive to the growing dilemmas and adaptive challenges that are quickly filling those spaces.
As emergence occurs, awareness allows for our systems to respond and even transform in new and novel ways, creating new thinking and even a new level of consciousness to arise, one that did not exist previously, allowing for adaptation across the organization. As Peggy Holman shares, “In social systems, emergence can move us toward possibilities that serve enduring needs, intentions, and values. Forms can change, conserving essential truths while bringing forth innovations that weren’t possible before.” For which she adds, “Emergence is a process, continual and never-ending. It emphasizes interactions as much as it does the people or elements interacting. Emergence involves also paying attention to what is happening…”
Building our awareness muscle allows us to gain a better vantage point towards determining what is emerging both now and in the future and to then be better equipped to engage and proactively affect that emergence positively across the organizational learning ecosystem. Especially as this is not a time of certainty, but one of emergence. A time of learning towards, more than learning from.
“What happens at the beginning of any creative process? Nothing! Creativity requires that we create space and wait for something to emerge.” -via Otto Scharmer