Pursue Growth & Learning Series - Article Takeaways: “Adapting Change to Fit Complexity”


Below are key learnings from the article ‘Adapting Change to Fit Complexity’, written by Dawna Jones, published on the Huffington Post.

What if decision makers instigating change are seeing the inherent nature of companies all wrong?
The Traditional View - Assume the Company is a Machine
  • Change initiatives make the mistake of fixing the parts, while neglecting to witness the effect on the entire interaction
  • Business is typically about rationale, so assumption is that change happens using mental intellect
  • Mistake to think that if you fix what is showing on the surface, the whole system will respond predictably
  • Typical strategy is to get buy-in and then push change forward but it can create the resistance you are trying to avoid
  • Assumptions and consequences of these assumptions in traditional view
    • Change is controllable. Outcome engineered
      • result: incremental results
    • Thinking how we always have will create system-wide change
      • result: emotions and relationships ignored, negative impact
    • Focus on problem solving will solve more problems
      • result: Whatever you focus on expands. Focusing on problem solving expands the number of problems to be solved. Attention is given to the negative. Eventually, an addiction to crisis can result which increases risk of missing opportunities.
    • Innovation happens with linear/predictable thinking
      • result: Creativity is limited to mavericks
    • People resist change so telling and selling required
      • result: Resistance to change is created by not attending to fundamental human values. Will I be safe? Will my basic human needs for belonging and emotional and social security be covered? How will this change affect my personal life?
The Living System View - Complex Communities Propelled by Networks of Relationships
  • Looks at the whole, not parts
  • Must understand interaction between formal designed structure along with it's informal networks that get work done
  • Social/emotional data is critical 
  • Zappos example of introducing Holacracy
    • Holacracy is a formal system/structure
    • If it was introduced without consideration of our informal networks, it would confine instead of liberating creative potential. Would feel like moving through molasses
      • I actually think we missed on this - didn't consider our culture, people, emotions enough
  • How to change living systems?
    • Use a broad perspective without sacrificing details
    • Details provide cues to what is emerging next
    • Requires a much more advanced awareness and skill set
    • Analytical thinking is fine, just not applied to every single situation
    • Vitality of a company, ability to flex, learn and be creative is rooted in informal, fluid networks connected by meaning
    • One person coming in or leaving can change the character of the network
      • Interesting thought from a recruiting perspective and from not moving fast enough to term
    • "A machine can be controlled. A living system can only be disturbed."
How to tickle the system for quantum speed
  • Looking at change implementation from understanding of complex living system means stepping out of the mind, into the heart
  • Companies that ignore the power of caring, belonging, and inspiration to performance, they will never adapt fast enough
  • Engage with what matters to people, what you are collectively committed to achieving - then change will happen faster and easier
  • Core elements to doing this
    • Vision - visionary leader at the helm
    • Message - autonomy and freedom to exercise creative imitative without fear of retribution is force behind innovation and lasting change
    • Creativity - comfort with uncertainty and commitment to learning
      • Can use methods of dialogue, story, appreciative inquiry, trust building convos, play, outdoor experiential learning.
      • Also have to learn how to access the wisdom beyond intellect - discover this thru heightened awareness
    • Learning - experiment, failing is ok, mind open and attentively focused
    • Self-Collective transformation - more conscious and courageous leader to let go of the old - leader as integrator not controller
    • Mindfulness before action -  non-judgementally receive and accept information without feeling need to control it or bend it to your existing framework
  • Effecting change in a complex living system is inspired not driven

Author: Christa Foley

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