Humanity is in a crisis of consciousness. Society and the way we interact with each other is broken because we too often see the world in separate, static, and linear ways. Our reductive thinking keeps us stuck in the past, with no clear path for how to move forward, for we are in constant conflict with the complex, dynamic, and evolving world around us. Luckily, an opportunity for change is presenting itself. We have a new approach to the art of inquiry, called complexity science, which can guide us forward. A complexity science approach allows us to explore and address questions beyond the the scope of “traditional” science, including human behavior, cultures, and social movements. Complexity science pushes us to look at history, not for answers but for a map toward a more positive future and every February in the United States, we are presented with an opportune time to reflect on the past. Black History Month, which stems back to the 1920’s as “Negro History Week”, is here to remind us that the past contains important insights. Unfortunately, over the years we have missed too many of these insights and desperately need to expand our thinking in order to move forward in a positive way. With a collective shift in human consciousness, guided by missing lessons from our past and complexity science, we can work together to achieve positive change.
Viewing entries in
Angie and I recently attended the WorkHuman Conference in our home town of Austin, Texas. The event is pioneered by Globoforce, a leading provider for social recognition solutions, who is dedicated to creating more human-centered workplaces.
We were eager to attend WorkHuman for many reasons. Their speaker lineup was definitely a major draw, for it included well-known leaders Brene Brown, Shawn Achor, Salma Hayek, Simon Sinek, and Amal Clooney, among others. However, there were more compelling reasons for our excitement. We desired to learn more about this movement, to be a part of their mission and play witness, and to contribute to the conversation with our testimony about how complex system science can help transform workplaces for the better.
As a systems thinker, I don’t ever recall a time that I couldn’t see systems. However, as I was learning about the various complexity terms and aspects, light bulb after light bulb went off, and having the words that explained what I understood gave me more confidence. What I learned from my MA was rich and invaluable, and while it did not result in me being fluent in "complexity speak", the following are some of the terms that have especially resonated with me and continually show up in my work, life, and all the things I do.
In our upcoming episode, we share our interview with the co-author of Embracing Complexity: Strategic Perspectives for an Age of Turbulence, Jean Boulton, who is also an academic and management consultant, specializing in complexity theory. Our conversation with her was very rich, covering concepts from how complexity thinking compares to systems thinking, change management, complexity as a worldview, and even how this field is shining a light on climate change. We covered a lot of ground in the time we had with her, although we wish we could have talked longer. Her humility and brilliance were captivating and just minutes into our conversation, we realized that she lives and breathes complexity, using this worldview to frame how she thinks, feels and acts.
Curiosity is healthy. It’s empowering and very telling. We can learn so much, not just about the other side, but about ourselves. We can get curious about the past, and look back and question why Donald Trump was elected president (I personally believe this act of reflection is necessary and important).
To begin our quest to remain open-minded, we can use our emotions to propel us forward and to motivate us. If we channel our anger, fear, frustration, or confusion into wonder and intrigue, we can redirect what might be holding us back.
Many Americans are beginning to recognize how paralyzing bipartisan opposition can be; they also realize that most people agree on and hope for the same things, like financial stability, economic prosperity, national security, and equality of opportunity. They know that we can’t continue forward with the same mental models which created this bantering mess of a political system, especially since these mental models are no longer serving us or our country.
This group of dissatisfied citizenship is breaking the mold. They are seeking alternatives to their bipartisan government. According to Gallop, “an average 43% of Americans identified politically as independents in 2014”. And this climbing number of individuals identifying as independent is an unintended consequence of the U.S. political system’s rigidity (and untrustworthiness).
A few weeks ago we shared our interview with system thinker and business evolutionary, Benjamin Taylor, and one of the questions we asked Benjamin was: how much control does a leader truly have when it comes to shaping company culture?
Benjamin's response was very enlightening. He described company culture as "the lived experience of the people", which means it isn't a thing which leaders can control. In fact it isn't a thing at all, rather, it is an intended or unintended consequence which results, in part, from leadership behavior. He emphasized that when leaders seek to shape or engineer a company's culture, they are seeking an unattainable level of control.
So, if leaders have little control in shaping company culture, do they have the power to influence it at all?
So, if connection strengthens social networks, why do we constantly resort to rejection or isolation as a way to “resolve” social issues?
When using this tactic, we create a cycle of deflection, where the person or ‘problem’ is consistently pushed out of one system and into another. But, this mindset which is geared toward eliminating the problem, is in itself, a problem.