What I do

I help people in organisations make sense of complex situations in their specific context. I make important, but sometimes hard-to-understand, concepts practical and accessible. From organisational development to change and leadership – from learning journeys through speaking engagements to bespoke consulting engagements and workshops, you can engage with me as a thinking partner in various ways.

I help decision-makers make sense of complex situations

I span boundaries between various disciplines and ideas and create new lenses and tools to use in complexity.

  • I apply complexity to areas like organisational development, change, leadership, and deliver bespoke consulting engagements and workshops.
  • I teach the same topics at business schools, universities, and in partnership with Complexity Fit
  • I co-create cutting-edge learning journeys with Complexity Fit
  • I map narrative landscapes and help companies use them to create change at scale with SenseMaker®
  • I speak about complexity, sense-making, and wayfinding at conferences, internal events, and seminars.
Complexity can feel overwhelming and confusing. I bring my more than two decades of practical experience and expertise alongside yours to help you make sense. I can never assume I know the answers, but I can get "in the boat" with you and be a fellow wayfinder. I strongly believe that enabling people in an organisation to make sense of their environments and decide on their "next wise action" is more sustainable than employing external consultants.

"When I meet with Sonja I always make sure I have my notebook handy, as I don’t want to miss her advice and suggestions. Sonja has supported me and my team for over 18 months now in various roles that have included speaking at leadership events on the topics of complexity and agile leadership, facilitator, and thinking partner. Sonja’s experience and thought leadership in the fields of complexity, agility, culture, and change management have been most valuable to me when it comes to thinking about how best to help the organisation respond to the increasing unpredictability, interdependence, and complexity we are facing. I really appreciate her ability to see the “wood for the trees” and help me think deeply about the challenges we face with her sometimes controversial, always valuable suggestions." - South African banking client

Contact me to start a conversation
One of the biggest challenges organisations face today is unlearning the ways of seeing, being, and doing that made them successful in the past. In a fast changing world, we need to become change fit, future-fit, and complexity fit. In Complexity Fit, we offer learning journeys to build complexity fitness practices into the core of your team or organisation.

Complexity Fit
Click on the button below to the the latest learning journeys for individuals, organisations and coaches.
Get fitter here
How do I lead when I don't know where I am going? Even before the COVID19 pandemic, I heard this question a lot. Now it is even more salient. The days of leaders who knew the answers and who knew exactly where they were going are over. The problem is many leaders don't know how to lead differently.

"Leaders will no longer be seen as grand visionaries, all-wise decision makers, and ironfisted disciplinarians. Instead, they will need to become social architects, constitution writers, and entrepreneurs of meaning. In this new model, the leader’s job is to create an environment where every employee has the chance to collaborate, innovate, and excel." - Gary Hamel (Moonshots for Management, HBR 2009)

Speed, interdependence, and complexity have created a world where no single individual can understand the adaptive challenges we face, never mind having answers.

"Instead of directing chess pieces around the board and mulling over every single decision, leaders instead should act as gardeners— tending the environment, shaping the ecosystem, growing the organization that can adapt and win." - General Stanley McChrystal

Most leaders realise that old ways of leading are simply not cutting it anymore, but are at a loss as to how to lead differently. They all know that the world is increasingly complex with seemingly endless trade-offs and paradoxes, but they are stuck in old mindsets and habits. Before leaders can think and act differently, they need to become aware of and question these assumptions so that more options become available to them. Often the only way to achieve this is through potentially disruptive learning experiences (not just exposure to new information).

In Complexity Fit, we offer custom-designed leadership journeys for leaders across all levels of the organisation. In these journeys, we employ well-researched methods and practices rooted in complexity theory, cognitive science, and various other fields.
Complexity Fit
Each journey is a unique combination of theoretical input, practical application, and transformative and disruptive experiences. We partner with the very best thought leaders from around the globe to make sure our content is relevant and of high quality.

If you are tired of the same-old same-old, and you want the very best new thinking, contact me to co-create a leadership journey for your leadership cohort.
Let's co-create a leadership journey for your people
Many change efforts are frustrated by the lack of actionable real-time insight. Wouldn't you like to be able to scan the below-the-surface human dynamics in your company or market, the same way a sonar scans the ocean floor? To make the hidden visible?

I map the storyscapes, the narrative landscapes that shape your company and markets. I do this by gathering stories at scale using a tool called Sensemaker®. I have used it for, among others:
  • Culture mapping
  • Consumer insights and market segmentation
  • Diversity scanning
  • Innovation
  • Risk & resilience (horizon scanning and weak signal detection)
  • Leadership Journeys & 360-degree feedback
  • Learning Journals e.g. journaling key insights during learning interventions and conferences
  • Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing
  • Safety Culture
  • Enabling and supporting decision-making
  • Crowd-sourced scenario planning and strategy
  • Narrative-enhanced Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • User requirements capture
  • Customer & Brand Experience
  • Academic and other research
  • Attitudinal audits e.g. to ethics & safety as a lead indicator or risk
Each journey is a unique combination of theoretical input, practical application, and transformative and disruptive experiences. We partner with the very best thought leaders from around the globe to make sure our content is relevant and of high quality.

If you are tired of the same-old same-old, and you want the very best new thinking, contact me to co-create a leadership journey for your leadership cohort.
Contact me for a demonstration
I am an accomplished and sought-after speaker at conferences and corporate events. Because of my work in applied complexity, I am able to speak on a wide variety of topics, with complexity as the golden thread. These include:
  • Wayfinding in uncertainty
  • Habits of mind to thrive in complexity
  • Complexity Fitness
  • Diversity and belonging
  • Narrative and meaning
  • These talks work well as conference keynotes, but also for Exco and other leadership breakaways.
If these topics don't completely suit your needs, feel free to contact me for a custom-designed talk.
Talk to me about what you want me to talk about

My work philosophy

  • I see organisations as Complex Adaptive Systems, more similar to ecologies than to machines or even organisms.  This requires us to think differently about every aspect of our organisations, especially leadership, strategy and change.

The temptation to lead as a chess master, controlling each move of the organization, must give way to an approach as a gardener, enabling rather than directing. A gardening approach to leadership is anything but passive. The leader acts as an “Eyes-On, Hands-Off” enabler who creates and maintains an ecosystem in which the organization operates.

― Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

  • Complex systems are emergent, therefore contextual intelligence is an absolutely crucial capability in the new world of work.  I don't create or follow recipes, I honour every context as unique and create fit-for-context processes.
  • Because these complex organisations are largely made up of human beings, I also believe that they should be "fit for humans".  When I engage with organisations, I employ narrative practices that go beyond what is commonly known as storytelling.  It focuses on the generative aspects of narrative and how human beings make meaning of their experiences, environment, and identities through stories.  In a way, we are all authoring our current reality through the stories tell and the actions that flow from them. In organisations and societies, we are all co-authors of an emergent reality.
  • I am pragmatic, I believe theory is important, but praxis (theory + practice) is even more so.  I  focus on offering practical and experiential processes that make an impact in the real world.
  • I partner with clients to co-create fit-for context and fit-for-purpose enabling processes.  I know a lot, but I am not an expert in your context.  I don't engage as an expert consultant, but rather as long-term partner.
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