You cannot manage complex human dynamics with frameworks

Management 3.0 Module: Complexity Thinking

You cannot control a complex system, but you have many options for guiding it. This module is about how to deal with increased complexity in a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world.

An organization is a complex adaptive system (CAS), because it consists of parts (people) that form a system (organization), which shows complex behavior while it keeps adapting to a changing environment.

There are no laws for dealing with change, uncertainty and complexity.

Management 3.0 Complexity Thinking Guidelines

  1. Address complexity with complexity: The brain is more complex than any other tool. To make sense of a complex thing, use storytelling, metaphors, visuals.
  2. Use a diversity of perspectives: Combining multiple incorrect views often results in a much better observation.
  3. Assume subjectivity and coevolution: When cause and effect are interdependent, resolve a situation by focusing on something else.
  4. Steal and tweak: We usually think of innovation as inventing new things, but we may be smarter to think of it as recombining old ones.
  5. Expect dependence on context: Be skeptical, because what worked in the past, or for others, is not guaranteed to work for you now.
  6. Anticipate, explore, adapt: Probe a situation by imagining improvements (anticipate), trying things out (explore), and responding to change (adapt).
  7. Shorten the feedback cycle: Systems with slower feedback cycles have higher extinction rates in changing environments. Iterate faster.
  8. Keep your options open: Prepare to be surprised.

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Complexity Thinking is one of the foundation modules of the Management 3.0 Foundation Workshop. Together with Management and Leadership it is illustrated in Martie’s legs.