If you’ve been privy to the human dynamics of being in a family, you’ll be au fait with complexity. Often it’s easy to avoid human dynamics because it’s hard to understand. But it can be very useful not to avoid it because we can use complexity in creative process, and as part of a strategy for change.
If we see the organisation, as a machine – easy and clear, we are given the illusion of control. Planned change, a project plan, a clear outline for change or creation gives us secure and certain answers. Then real life happens. Without understanding of complexity, plans are valueless.
A complexity approach requires stepping outside of silos, flat hierarchical structure, and flexibility. Organic systems, unlike machines, can’t be controlled. Their properties aren’t planned, but appear unpredictably as a result of complex interdependencies. This isn’t cause and effect, its non-linear. Have you ever provided all the right circumstances for a plant to grow, and seen it wither slowly in the pot? Or forgotten all about a poor plant, only to find that surprisingly, it’s survived. If you’ve a lack of green fingers, as I have you might relate to this!
We can’t control what emerges but we can grasp opportunities through creating structure, establishing regular practice around emerging positive changes. Just as experimenting with a few ingredients can result in a signature dish that requires a recipe, or a marriage institutionalises a once emerging relationship, we can create containers for emergent change. Changes, whether in families or organisations happen not through long-term planning, but by people reacting to the circumstances that come to them. Most organisations don’t know what is coming – who the new leader will be, what next year’s strategy will be, what the next restructure will bring.
To achieve this emergent approach to strategy, this adoption of complexity theory we must encourage the emergence of creativity and innovation. We must allow experimentation and accidents, notice them, nurture them and provide containers for them. Ultimately we must let the system, the collection of people, neurons and the unpredictable nature of collective conscience get on with doing what it does best –unpredictably creating new things.
So what’s emerging around you, that you are going to contain?