How to prevent “I didn’t see that coming!”

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Leadership Distinction #42: Complexity

Why is the world becoming more complex? What is likely to happen to you as a result? As a potential leader, a person with the promise of leading, or a practicing leader, why should you care? And if you do care, what should you do about it?

Scott Page of the University of Michigan has taught me that our world is becoming more complex because the number of connections keeps growing, the connectors are of a greater diversity, they are interdependent, and – most crucially for that which differentiates complex systems from merely complicated systems – the connecting elements are adaptive; they learn and change.

What can you expect from your context as a result of this increasing complexity? Don’t know. And that’s just it. No one can tell you. It used to be we could expect the causes and effects of our actions and that of others to be local and rather immediate in time. No mas. Ever hear of the ‘butterfly effect’?

What you care to do, what you care for, within your organization responsibilities, and what you care about, are your internal connections with all that you seek to produce for a result. And all that you seek to produce is made up of that seemingly infinite variety of diverse, interdependent and adaptive connections in the wider world. Ignore complexity and get used to saying, “I didn’t see that coming.”

If you’d prefer not to have to utter these words all that often, and have a fighting chance at generating the change you intend you need to make of your committed network a complex system of your own. Seek out and integrate the perspectives of your diverse, communicating, learning followers and allies. You just might see it coming. But even if you still don’t see it coming, you’ll be better equipped to adapt to what’s hit you. This practice will re-fortify your organization’s potential, and your promise for success.

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Episode 41