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Biology of Business: Complex Adaptive Systems

Biology of Business: Complex Adaptive Systems



11 Simple Rules from Complex Adaptive Systems

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
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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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  • Awesome deck, thanks for sharing.
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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.

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    Biology of Business: Complex Adaptive Systems Biology of Business: Complex Adaptive Systems Presentation Transcript

    • The Biology of Business The Biology of Business 11 Simple Rules from Complex Adaptive Systems 11 Simple Rules from Complex Adaptive Systems Sharon VanderKaay Farrow Partnership Architects Inc.
    • pho Tye S. Farrow oto: Concepts from  complexity science  point the way to a  healthier world  for business,  communities and  individuals.
    • These concepts  explain  explain the dynamics of change in  h i living systems  that affect business  success in a  post‐industrial era. 
    • A definition  A definition Complex Adaptive Systems  Complex Adaptive Systems are diverse  living elements  living elements made up of multiple  interconnected agents  interconnected agents that have the capacity to  change and learn from  change and learn from experience.
    • an@seewater.com Susa Ottevanger / susa Industrial Residue  an 200+ years of  industrial progress  have left behind  tangible liabilities  such as toxic  landfill…
    • oto.com / Grafissimo © iStockpho …as well as  intangible liabilities  such as  such as self‐defeating  ways of working.  ways of working © iStockphoto.com / Dmitry Vasilyev D
    • @seewater.com Susan Ottevanger / susan@ We’ve become so  O disconnected  from the natural world that  unregimented business practices   can seem  strange to us.  
    • © iStockphoto.co / © Ryan Lane om Disconnect  Lingering  machine age  machine age practices are  barriers to barriers to prosperity...  
    • ry to.com / Jelani Memor …and these  ways of  © iStockphot working cause  unnecessary  distress.  
    • change programs? strategy implementation? t t i l t ti ? Living Systems Mismatch  performance reviews? Resources are  Resources are wasted by  © iStockphoto.com / Ola Dusegård diligently  diligently O applying   approaches  approaches that have   proven  proven time after time  misguided mergers? g g to FAIL.   to FAIL. economic predictions?
    • Why do our change programs  produce so little change? produce so little change? Living Systems Mismatch  Why is it difficult to implement  Resources are  Resources are our strategic plan? wasted by  Why do efforts to gain buy‐in  Why do efforts to gain buy in diligently  diligently frequently fail? applying   approaches  approaches Why does the ROI for mergers  that have   tend to be low?  proven  proven And why do so may headlines   time after time  about t e eco o y co ta t e about the economy contain the  to FAIL.   to FAIL. word “unexpected”?
    • @seewater.com Susan Ottevanger / susan@ O To resolve this mismatch there’s  one basic “test” question  we need to ask  we need to ask ourselves daily…   
    • n@seewater.com Susan Ottevanger / susan n …this question applies whether  we’re aiming to  ’ i i t save the planet or  attempting to change  one person’s opinion.   
    • The test question is:
    • Am I working with or against nature?
    • © iStockphoto.com / © iStockphoto.co / © igor terekhov om WITH NATURE WITH NATURE AGAINST NATURE AGAINST NATURE p p purpose and boundaries tight, uniform control g , attract, work through impose, force feed open, flexible system closed, rigid system cooperate to create conditions for  scarcity mindset y abundance  solutions emerge / pre‐determined / expect surprises attempt to predict
    • an@seewater.com Susa Ottevanger / susa an Here are  Here are 11 enabling rules  that work  that work with nature.
    • 11 …these  enabling rules  g emerged from   reflection on real, everyday  business life with clients and colleagues  g through the lens of   complex adaptive  systems. y
    • © Susan Ottevanger / susan@seewater.com 1. 1 n 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.  acting on shifting environmental conditions.
    • 2. 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  g p q y real, messy human experiences. 
    • an@seewater.com 3. 3 © Susa Ottevanger / susa an 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.  relationships. Instead, re‐frame questions to expand the   p possibilities, then explore fast, cheap iterations  , p , p in a process of experiment/learn/adjust/repeat  until a better solution becomes apparent. 
    • Strange Attractor St Att t 4. 4 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. attractor even if slightly disturbed ”²   Scientists may wince at applying attractor to   business, but this sticky term reminds us to  business, but this sticky term reminds us to engage followers, influencers, and champions   while avoiding contests aimed at control. 
    • © Susan Ottevanger / susan@seewater.com 5. 5 n Seek healthy mixtures. (avoid monocultures like the plague)  Biodiversity is a condition for survival. Sameness and replication are enemies of  innovation.  i i Diverse viewpoints lead to better solutions by  challenging assumptions, reframing questions  challenging assumptions reframing questions and avoiding self‐limiting either/or choices.
    • pho Tye S. Farrow 6. 6 oto: 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) 
    • © Susan Ottevanger / susan@seewater.com 7. 7 n 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.  nervous But successful innovation happens when people  g give up central planning and see beyond neat,  p p g y , over‐simplified answers, then work through the  disorder to create better solutions. 
    • 8. You may be here. 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  p g j y matter of positive thinking; it’s derived from the realities of adaptive systems.
    • @seewater.com 9. 9 © Susan Ottevanger / susan@ Cooperate to create abundance.  (pure competition leads to scarcity)  Machine age economics were based on assumptions of gain or loss, rather than  interdependence.  interdependence In natural, self‐organizing systems the well‐ being of any given organism is dependent g yg g p on the success of the larger whole.
    • 10. 10 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.  can be contagious with higher impact These outlier (or pilot) projects demonstrate a  better way forward through positive deviance  better way forward through positive deviance by mavericks who get things done.
    • 11. 11 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. 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?). 
    • 1.   Pursue agility and resilience.  2.   Consciously learn from daily experience. 2 Consciously learn from daily experience 3.   Allow solutions to emerge. These design thinking  4.   Pull, don’t push. concepts are not new,  concepts are not new yet examples of 5.   Seek healthy mixtures. mechanical models mechanical models 6.   Rely on vision and boundaries. and their  7.   Appreciate the messy phases. negative consequences are evident in business  8.   Expect non‐linear progress. all day, every day. y, y y 9.   Cooperate to create abundance. 10. Promote grassroots initiatives.  10 Promote grassroots initiatives 11. Work in a place designed for humans.  
    • Business must abandon  summary comments  “ efforts to craft the perfect  p plan for the future. Alex & David Bennet Organizational Survival in the New World 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 ...cannot be directed/controlled  but can be influenced/disturbed. Henri Lipmanowicz Plexus Institute Mastery.  Purpose.  It s not a good time for control freaks. It’s not a good time for control freaks Eric Young quoted in Getting to Maybe by Westley, Zimmerman & Patton  ” Autonomy. Autonomy Dan Pink Drive
    • credits + inspiration Plexus Institute http://www.plexusinstitute.org/ 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  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 OnDesign/archives/2009/11/life in beta‐‐h html ² Wikipedia on “Attractors” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractor y 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 b K l E P f i A fC l it by Karl E.  Weick & Kathleen M. Sutcliffe Modern Times, the film  artwork as noted: Susan Ottevanger  artwork as noted: Susan Ottevanger www.seewater.com photos as noted: Tye Farrow
    • SIMPLE COMPLICATED COMPLEX baking a cake      constructing a building baking a cake constructing a building sustaining a business or g raising a child LINEAR  LINEAR EXPERTS COORDINATE MANY COORDINATE MANY  INHERENT VARIETY and  INSTRUCTIONS, SETS of INSTRUCTIONS to  UNCERTAINTY in a DYNAMIC  PREDICTABLE  ACHIEVE a SPECIFIC OUTCOME ENVIRONMENT that requires  OUTCOME continuous INTERPRETING  continuous INTERPRETING and SENSING; may lead to  SURPRISE  PROJECT MANAGEMENT (e.g. to deliver construction documents)  combines complicated + complex elements aimed at a reliable outcome  bi li t d l l t i d t li bl t adapted from Getting to Maybe by Westley, Zimmerman & Patton
    • © Susan Ottevanger / susan@seewater.com n When we’re working with nature…
    • @seewater.com Susan Ottevanger / susan@ O …fresh possibilities for success emerge. Sharon VanderKaay  y Farrow Partnership Architects   www.farrowpartnership.com