Biology of Business: Complex Adaptive Systems

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11 Simple Rules from Complex Adaptive Systems

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  • I comment again because of the sound comment of Jan. I agree with Jan's comment and find it quite revealing. I wonder if Jan would find the time to read my newest SS presentation on complexity because I care for deep comments
    http://www.slideshare.net/hudali15/blue-ocean-strategy-balanced-scorecard-strategy-and-team-forming-a-shared-perspective
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  • Hi,

    Excellent presentation, very clear and easy to understand. With regards to the 'nature is red in tooth and claw' comment this is true. However, I think that we should not focus on this too much, 'nature' clearly does not work exclusively through competition to generate more complex biosystems. It strikes me that we are missing something in our knowledge. When Mendeleev invented the periodic table his stroke of insight was to realise that not all elements had been discovered. He arranged the elements according to their proton number and purposely left blanks in his table, predicting that these elements would soon be found. He was correct. For understanding complex systems such as the natural world, natural selection and evolution are clearly excellent mechanisms for ensuring life. However, I do not think they present the complete picture, there must be something more. In my mind, I think this might be to do with chaos unfolding through time. Certain chaotic patterns of behaviour create islands of relative stability within the web of interedependencies. Perhaps the stability of these species and/or interactions between species allow symbiosis or new forms of life to emerge?
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  • This presentation mixes facts with simplicity. The 11 laws are great and very well-explained. I found true enjoyment and engagement in reading this presentation.
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  • Mark, I hadn't considered nature's kill-or-be-killed dimension, thank you for pointing this out. The question: 'Am I working with or against nature?' is my attempt to highlight the counterproductive effects of imposing mechanical ways of working on non-mechanical beings - so I could ask, 'Am I applying mechanical thinking to a human situation? But then I'd be losing my emphasis on the positive dimension of working in harmony with nature.

    I've found my question to be helpful in my own day-to-day life for over ten years, but I will give some thought to another way of expressing my intent.

    -Sharon
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Biology of Business: Complex Adaptive Systems

  1. Sharon VanderKaay The Biology of Business 11 Simple Rules from Complex Adaptive Systems
  2. Concepts from complexity science point the way to a healthier world for business, communities and individuals. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  3. These concepts explain the dynamics of change in living systems that affect business success in a post-industrial era. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  4. A definition Complex Adaptive Systems are diverse living elements made up of multiple interconnected agents that have the capacity to grow and change. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  5. 200+ years of industrial progress have left behind tangible liabilities such as toxic landfill… Industrial Residue artwork:SusanOttevanger
  6. …as well as intangible liabilities such as self-defeating ways of working. ©iStockphoto.com/Grafissimo©iStockphoto.com/DmitryVasilyev
  7. We’ve become so disconnected from the natural world that unregimented business practices may seem strange to us.
  8. Lingering machine age practices are barriers to prosperity... ©iStockphoto.com/©RyanLane Disconnect
  9. …and these ways of working cause unnecessary distress. ©iStockphoto.com/JelaniMemory
  10. Resources are wasted by diligently applying mechanical approaches that have proven time after time to FAIL. change programs? strategy implementation? performance reviews? misguided mergers? economic predictions? ©iStockphoto.com/OlaDusegård Living Systems Mismatch
  11. Why do our changeprograms produce so little change? Why is it difficult to implementour strategic plan? Why do effortsto gainbuy-in frequentlyfail? Why does the ROI for mergerstend to be low? And why do so may headlines about the economycontain the word Living Systems Mismatch Resources are wasted by diligently applying mechanical approaches that have proven time after time to FAIL.
  12. To resolve this mismatch there’s one basic “test” question we need to ask ourselves daily…
  13. …this question applies whether we’re aiming to save the planet or attempting to change one person’s opinion. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  14. The test question is: artwork:SusanOttevanger
  15. Am I working with or against nature?
  16. purposeand boundaries attract, work through open, flexible system cooperate to create conditions for abundance solutions emerge… expect surprises tight, uniform control impose, force feed closed, rigid system scarcity mindset pre-determined… attempt to predict AGAINST NATURE WITH NATURE ©iStockphoto.com/©igorterekhov ©iStockphoto.com/
  17. Here are 11 enabling rules that work with nature. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  18. …these 11 enabling rules emerged from reflection on real, everyday business life with clients and colleagues through the lens of complex adaptive systems.
  19. Pursue agility and resilience. (abandon illusions of predictability) Living systems present too many variables for us to rely on one assumed future scenario. “Life in beta”is Bruce Nussbaum’s¹ term for the notion of continuously sensing, interpreting and acting on shifting environmental conditions. 1. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  20. Consciously learn from daily experience. (rather than rely on formal training) Step-by-step training prepares people for repetitive, judgment-free procedures. But business skills such as sensing, sense-making and taking appropriate action are improved through a process of inquiry and reflection on real, messy human experiences. 2.
  21. Allow solutions to emerge. (look beyond existing pieces of the puzzle) Avoid jumping to answers and making assumptions based on direct cause and effect relationships. Instead, re-frame questions to expand the possibilities, then explore fast, cheap iterations in a process of experiment/learn/adjust/repeat until a better solution becomes apparent. 3. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  22. Pull, don’t push. (avoid efforts to overcome resistance to ideas) Strange attractor is a term from chaos theory describing “points that remain close to the attractor even if slightly disturbed.”² Some scientists may wince at applying attractor to business, but this sticky term reminds us to engage followers, influencers, and champions while avoiding contests aimed at control. 4. Strange Attractor
  23. Seek healthy mixtures. (avoid monocultures like the plague) Biodiversity is a condition for survival. Sameness and replication are enemies of innovation. Diverse viewpoints lead to better solutions by challenging assumptions, reframing questions and avoiding self-limiting either/or choices. 5. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  24. Establish a purpose and boundaries. (tight controls do more harm than good) Industrial era notions of control came about when people were viewed as extensions of machines. Pay attention to what Dan Pink says about motivation – Mastery! Purpose! Autonomy! (see Sources, slide #32) 6. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  25. Appreciate the messy phases. (innovation does not occur with clinical precision) The notion of self-organization at the edge of chaos makes industrial-minded administrators nervous. But successful innovation happens when people give up central planning and see beyond neat, over-simplified answers, then work through the disorder to create better solutions. 7. ©SusanOttevanger/susan@seewater.com
  26. Expect non-linear progress. (there will be ups and downs) The creative process depends on the learning that emerges from each trial and error iteration. Instead of being surprised and daunted by a naturally bumpy process, it can be recognized as a progressive journey. This view is not a matter of positive thinking; it’s derived from the realities of adaptive systems. 8.  You may be here.
  27. Cooperate to create abundance. (pure competition leads to scarcity) Machine age economics were based on assumptions of gain or loss, rather than interdependence. In natural, self-organizing systems the well- being of any given organism is dependent on the success of the larger whole. 9. ©SusanOttevanger/susan@seewater.com
  28. Promote grassroots initiatives. (see the weaknesses in top-down programs) In contrast to top-down programs that invite resistance, small self-organizing experiments can be contagious, with higher impact. These outlier (or pilot) projects demonstrate a better way forward through positive deviance by mavericks who get things done. 10. artwork:SusanOttevanger
  29. Work in a place designed for humans. (in contrast to restrictive, generic office spaces) Knowledge workers benefit from physical environments that recognize the changing biology of business. This means creating spaces that inspire big ideas and facilitate the flow of various activities that take place in a day (instead of the old question: open or closed offices?). 11.
  30. 1. Pursue agility and resilience. 2. Consciously learn from daily experience. 3. Allow solutions to emerge. 4. Pull, don’t push. 5. Seek healthy mixtures. 6. Rely on vision and boundaries. 7. Appreciate the messy phases. 8. Expect non-linear progress. 9. Cooperate to create abundance. 10. Promote grassroots initiatives. 11. Work in a place designed for humans. These design thinking concepts are not new, yet examples of mechanical models and their negative consequences are evident in business all day, every day.
  31. ...cannot be directed/controlled but can be influenced/disturbed. Henri Lipmanowicz Plexus Institute Because change is non-linear, a small change can produce a large effect. Or a large change may produce no effect at all. Curt Lindberg Plexus Institute Business must abandon efforts to craft the perfect plan for the future. Alex & David Bennet Organizational Survival in the New World It’s not a good time for control freaks. Eric Young quoted in Getting to Maybe by Westley, Zimmerman & Patton summary comments “ ” Mastery. Purpose. Autonomy. Dan Pink Drive
  32. credits + inspiration Plexus Institute http://www.plexusinstitute.org/ Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by A. Mitchell Waldrop Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Dan Pink ¹ Bruce Nussbaum http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/Nussbaum OnDesign/archives/2009/11/life_in_beta--h.html ² Wikipedia on “Attractors” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractor The Fortune Sellers by William A. Sherden Getting to Maybe by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman & Michael Quinn Patton Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity by Karl E. Weick & Kathleen M. Sutcliffe Modern Times, the film artwork as noted: Susan Ottevanger susan-ottevanger.com/
  33. SIMPLE COMPLICATED COMPLEX (baking a cake) (constructing a building) (sustaining a business or raising a child) adapted from Getting to Maybe by Westley, Zimmerman & Patton LINEAR INSTRUCTIONS PREDICTABLE OUTCOME EXPERTS COORDINATE MANY SETS of INSTRUCTIONS to ACHIEVE a SPECIFIED OUTCOME INHERENT VARIETY and UNCERTAINTY in a DYNAMIC ENVIRONMENT Requires continuous INTERPRETING and SENSING; may lead to SURPRISE
  34. When we’re working with nature… artwork:SusanOttevanger
  35. Sharon VanderKaay Twitter: @svkaay …fresh possibilities for success can emerge. artwork:SusanOttevanger

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