The world is a confusing place, and it’s just going to get more so. New technologies, fluctuating societal attitudes, and a swiftly changing economic landscape offer a constantly dynamic set of opportunities and problems. Navigating these tumultuous times necessitates a different kind of leadership.
Jennifer Garvey Berge’s book Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders can help you find your way forward by teaching you the delicate art of nimble and adaptive leadership. Rather than regurgitating ancient clichés about working longer and harder, this manual demonstrates how to create beautiful solutions to challenging issues.
The world is no longer the same as it once was. There are more people and ways to interact than ever before, and everything from supply chains to personal networks can now span the world. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) are a set of situations resulting from all of this complicated connectivity.
Leaders, which include everyone from CEOs to parents and teachers, face a unique set of challenges as a result of VUCA. Leaders have historically determined future judgments by studying the past. In our VUCA world, however, the past is no longer a good predictor of the future.
Consider that for a moment. There were only a few professions to pick from 500 years ago. Choosing the correct degree of study today entails planning for a future career that may or may not exist. In these circumstances, a successful leader must acquire three critical mental habits.
They must first practice asking a variety of inquiries. You should constantly ask questions that broaden rather than confine your thoughts. If something goes wrong, for example, don’t just ask “what happened?” “What else could have happened?” you would wonder.
Second, leaders must consider a variety of viewpoints. Don’t just rely on your own viewpoint. Make an attempt to comprehend how others perceive a problem. Even if you disagree, the differences in reasoning or thinking could provide useful information.
Finally, leaders must be able to see systems. Taking a step back and seeking for unexpected connections is what this entails. It’s easy to picture the world as a sequence of single causes and effects, but it’s more accurate to think of it as a web, with several causes and effects for each action.
We work with systems that have so many variables and interconnections that they can result in a wide range of outcomes. Predicting these outcomes is challenging because there are so many moving parts involved. Understanding complex systems necessitates a shift of perspective beyond cause and effect.
Our forefathers had a significant advantage in understanding the basic concept of cause and effect. The difference between life and death for early humans was the ability to link some prior behaviors to positive consequences and others to negative ones. As a result, our brains have evolved to recognize this simple story in every situation.
The past can be a great predictor of the future in some cases. If you were sick the last time you ate outdated sushi, you’re likely to get sick again if you eat it again. This pattern, however, may not always hold true. People bought a lot of VHS cassettes last decade, but that doesn’t indicate they’ll do it again in ten years.
If a system resists the linear cause-and-effect pattern, it’s a complex system that necessitates a new mindset. You can’t simply look at individual negative findings to solve a broken complicated system. It’s possible that they’ll never happen again under the same circumstances. Rather, concentrate on the processes that a system allows.
To do so, first examine the system’s current configuration. Make a diagram of all the nodes and connections. Then project into the future using this information. What are the possible outcomes? Which ones have a better chance than others? This method can be challenging. It can, however, show a system’s underlying inclinations – that is, what a system has been doing without your knowledge. It is feasible to adjust those tendencies to be more useful by experimenting with tiny changes to the system.
Consider the following scenario: At a high-powered consulting firm, it’s time for a performance assessment. It’s been a tumultuous year, with a lot of upheaval. At her desk, a stressed-out senior director sits. Her equally frantic coworker sits across from her. Here’s a question: Who would you rather be in this situation?
Most people, it turns out, would prefer to be neither. Giving and receiving feedback is an important yet difficult element of every work. It can be stressful and time-consuming. It can potentially lead to further difficulties down the road if done incorrectly. However, if you make feedback a two-way street, you can avoid these problems. Feedback should be in the form of loops rather than lines.
Unfortunately, the majority of employees tasked with offering feedback use the incorrect approach. They regard the procedure as a simple one-way transaction. The supervisor knows the truth in this approach, and all they have to do is pass it on to their subordinate.
This strategy, on the other hand, is excessively linear and does not establish the required feedback loop for an organization to evolve. Feedback sessions should be treated as a space of reciprocal interaction rather than a hierarchical model. Both parties should be able to contribute information to a shared pool of knowledge – and, more importantly, both parties should pay attention to the contributions of the other.
Of course, saying it is easier than doing it. It’s best to divide your pool of data into three streams to keep things running smoothly. The facts are the first stream. This is simply a distillation of factual facts, including numbers, occurrences, and specific information. Feelings are the second stream. This is how each individual interprets the data. Which ones are motivating and which ones are discouraging? Impacts, or the behaviors that followed from these perceptions, are the third and final stream.
It is feasible to develop a more accurate view of the world – without producing friction – when each side offers their assessments in this way. Both the supervisor and the employee have the opportunity to learn new information, and both are potential change agents. As a result, the company is considerably more likely to stay flexible and responsive in the face of adversity.
A marshmallow, spaghetti, twine, and tape Give the same materials to three groups: an architect’s group, a consultant’s group, and a children’s group. Tell them to construct the highest structure they can. Which team will be victorious?
The architects, of course. The children, on the other hand, are usually a close second. While the architects have all of the technical knowledge, the children benefit from a wealth of creativity and a risk-taking mindset that allows them to try out crazy ideas. After all, kids can still enjoy the marshmallow if their edifice collapses.
What may appear to be a critical goal at first may become unimportant by the time you achieve it these days. Alternatively, the actions you intended to take may wind up leading in the opposite direction. Because the future is unknown, you must be adaptable in your approach. Planning for an unpredictable future necessitates a willingness to try new things.
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