You cannot manage complex human dynamics with frameworks

Complexity Thinking Module

This module is about how to deal with increased complexity in a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world. It as well contains the Management 3.0 Complexity Thinking Guidelines.

What will you learn?

  • Why it is important to understand Complexity Thinking in a Management 3.0 context.
  • What is reductionism and what are common mistakes when applying reductionism.
  • What is a Complex Adaptive System, and examples of Complex Adaptive Systems.
  • A complexity model to understand the differences states of a system, and how organizations fit in this model.

  • How does VUCA relate to Complexity Thinking.
  • The eight guidelines to deal with complexity.
  • How to apply the eight guidelines in your organization.
  • Understand you can’t control or use frameworks to manage complex systems.

You cannot control a complex system, but you have many options for guiding it.

What will we discuss in this module?

  • What can go wrong if you don’t realize an organization is a complex adaptive system?
  • A complex adaptive system is always part of a bigger system. What are the boundaries of your team?
  • Can you manage or lead a complex adaptive system? What can the role of a manager or leader in a complex system be?
Sketchnotes Complexity Thinking
Click to enlarge the Complexity Thinking sketch notes

The Complexity Thinking module is part of the following workshops:

Management 3.0 Foundation Workshop Badge
Foundation Workshop
Management 3.0 Agility in HR Workshop
Agility in HR Workshop
Management 3.0 Fundamentals Online Workshop
Fundamentals Online Workshop

Good to know: Complexity Thinking is one of the foundation modules. Together with Management and Leadership it is illustrated in Martie’s legs.

Complexity Thinking Guidelines

Checkmark Complexity
  • Address complexity with complexity
    The brain is more complex than any other tool. To make sense of a complex thing, use storytelling, metaphors, visuals.
  • Use a diversity of perspectives
    Combining multiple incorrect views often results in a much better observation.
  • Assume subjectivity and coevolution
    When cause and effect are interdependent, resolve a situation by focusing on something else.
  • 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.
  • Expect dependence on context
    Be skeptical, because what worked in the past, or for others, is not guaranteed to work for you now.
  • Anticipate, explore, adapt
    Probe a situation by imagining improvements (anticipate), trying things out (explore), and responding to change (adapt).
  • Shorten the feedback cycle
    Systems with slower feedback cycles have higher extinction rates in changing environments. Iterate faster.
  • Keep your options open
    Prepare to be surprised.