October 23, 2019

For all my talk about values and purpose and complex adaptive systems, none of it matters, and you will remain irretrievably stuck, if you’re unable to do this one simple thing: Let. Go.

Letting go seems counter intuitive. Common wisdom dictates that leaders must not let go because letting go is lazy and irresponsible. The leader must maintain control. She must aim for stability. Stability is what makes companies successful over time.

Right? It turns out, not so much.

Stability is enticing because it soothes our need for certainty. When things are stable, we know what’s going to happen next, and that gives us confidence.

The problem with stability is that it’s rigid. Stuck leaders mistake rigidity for solidity. It feels like solid ground. It feels comfortable. But in reality, rigidity and the...

October 17, 2019

We have a habit of looking at organizations as machines that simply take input and transform it into output. But of course, that’s not what’s really going on. What’s really going on is much more complex. Modern organizations of the knowledge era are living systems of interconnected ingredients, processes and interactions.

In Other Words, They’re Complex Systems.

When academics talk about complex systems, they like to show you things like this (and then they wonder why system leadership theory isn’t really taking off in the real world).

I take a slightly different approach. I prefer to show you this.

This cake is the product of a complex system of interconnected ingredients, processes and interactions. The thing about complexity, is that we can’t deconstruct it into component parts. It is...

October 10, 2019

Last week, we talked about complex adaptive systems and the amazing creativity and solutions that emerge from them - if that is, we let them emerge. Allowing emergence to happen requires leaders to be generative in nature. Generative leadership is simply the act of nurturing healthy complex adaptive systems so emergence can arise.

How do Unstuck Leaders nurture these systems? Well, they structure the organization in a way that optimizes the conditions for them. That means lots of cross-pollination and inter-functionality. It means encouraging discussion upward, downward, sideways, inside and outside the organization. And it means Unstuck Leaders dedicate a substantial amount of their time to listening, observing and connecting.

In their book, Leading from the Emerging Future,...

October 3, 2019

Hi there! Please note that this week's post is a follow-up to last week's post on co-creation. You can read it here.

Before we can understand the nature of emergence, we have to understand the nature and behavior of complex adaptive systems.

You already know what complex adaptive systems are, even if you don’t know you know. You’ve seen them in practice. You’ve watched teams self-organize to address a problem. You’ve watched cross-functional interactions resulting in product or service changes. You’ve watched companies adapt to new situations or environments.

Complex adaptive systems are informal groups that arise to solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity. They are the result of the interconnectedness of people and ideas both inside and outside of the organization. They are unpredict...

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