Seven implications of complexity for organisations


My last post was about Paul Cilliers’s 7 characteristics of complex systems.  In this post I want to explore 7 of the implications of complexity that he thought was important for those working in and on organisations  (his original text is in italics). 1.Since the nature of a complex organization is determined by the interaction … Continue reading Seven implications of complexity for organisations

7 Characteristics of complex systems


I have been re-reading the work of Prof Paul Cilliers, who truly was a pioneer in complexity thinking.  I came across this summary of the general characteristcs of complex systems in a piece he wrote in 2000.  It is concise and accessible qualitative description of complexity and I thought it would be useful to share … Continue reading 7 Characteristics of complex systems

3 pieces of advice for leading a system turn around (especially for our new SA President)


“We incline to see history through the lives of great men. That inclination blinds us to the real complexity …”  – John Kay,  Obliquity Ever since his election as South Africa’s new president, my news feed has been filled with posts from people telling Cyril Ramaphosa what his priorities should be.  He faces a seemingly … Continue reading 3 pieces of advice for leading a system turn around (especially for our new SA President)

Dave Snowden at TedX: A succinct overview of his groundbreaking work


Dave at TedX

I first met Dave in 2002 when we were both employed by IBM.  I remember experiencing an immediate resonance with his work, especially the inherent integrity of honoring context and not mindlessly applying best-practice recipes as the big consultancies tend to do. It is now 16 years later, and it has been a privilege to … Continue reading Dave Snowden at TedX: A succinct overview of his groundbreaking work

What Van Gogh & Cape Town’s water crisis can teach us about innovation


Most people believe that innovation requires creativity, and therefore that creativity is a pre-condition for innovation.  This has somewhat “mystified” innovation and sparked entire industries focused on creativity training, design thinking courses and all manner of “creative disruption” processes to help people “think outside the box” in an attempt to unleash the latent creative genius … Continue reading What Van Gogh & Cape Town’s water crisis can teach us about innovation

Levers, blueprints and roadmaps: 3 tips to combat “dark” metaphors


For those who follow me, it’s probably become apparent that I have a love for metaphors and analogies. Because much of what I do involves introducing others to new concepts, I find them to be useful “hooks”, linking the new idea to something familiar, thereby providing a “scaffold of mind” while understanding grows. Because of this, … Continue reading Levers, blueprints and roadmaps: 3 tips to combat “dark” metaphors

Learning opportunities with Dr Glenda Eoyang in March 2018


Dr Glenda Eoyang, founder of the Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) Institute will is joining us in South Africa in March 2018. Many people recognize the complex nature of change today, but few can help you make wise choices in the moments of chaos. Human systems dynamics (HSD) provides practical ideas and tools to help you … Continue reading Learning opportunities with Dr Glenda Eoyang in March 2018

7 principles to help organisations resist the siren song of copying recipes


“You can’t replicate the end point of an evolutionary process, which by its success has changed the context anyway.  However we can seek to copy the starting conditions and enable the emergence of new contextually unique successes that learn from it.” – Dave Snowden “… the fact is, if you don’t know what makes things … Continue reading 7 principles to help organisations resist the siren song of copying recipes

Using Cynefin to make sense of preparing for the future of work


These past two weeks, I’ve had several conversations with executives and OD/L&D professionals who are trying to make sense of the complexities that automation initiatives are introducing into the workplace. We found it helpful to use Cynefin to understand some of these dynamics.  Now we know things tend not to fit neatly into the domains, … Continue reading Using Cynefin to make sense of preparing for the future of work

Want resilience? Nurture diversity.


One of the learnings from complexity that I find particularly valuable in the workplace, is the need for a “requisite diversity” for a system to be resilient and able to evolve. Too little diversity limits the system’s adaptive capacity and too much diversity leads a loss of coherence. This is valuable insight, especially in countries like … Continue reading Want resilience? Nurture diversity.