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Thriving in Chaos

Using the space between order and chaos to create transformation and breakthrough innovation.

Howard Mason

on 31 January 2013

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Transcript of Thriving in Chaos

Thriving in Chaos
We live in a new world.
The world has never been this way before.
These are unprecendented times.
Our world is turned upside down. So much traditional organizational thinking, particularly the need to over-control, is obsolete for today's volatile conditions.
"[Leaders] assume they should be in control.

When difficulties arise, they analyze more data, design more systems and install futher procedures in order to stay in control -- but, not withstanding their best efforts, the problems keep arising and they go through the same process time and time again.

"One of the requisite shifts is to relax the assumption that leaders can control change."
~Fris and Lazaridou: "The Quantum Perspective", 2006
Chaos = Complexity
The world is more interconnected than ever.
It is hard to see beyond the time horizons
of the short spans with which we usually work.
A time horizon is a way of thinking about time that helps
in grasping and planning for the future (or past). We have very little intuition about arbitrary time frames, but we can make sense of things in approximate range groupings.
Complexity is a new field of knowledge based on how groups of living things - people, animals, organizations, communities, the economy, etc. - actually behave in the real world. These behaviors appear very complex - but often are governed by elegant simplicity.
How complexity shows up
Cause and effect are far apart in space and time.

Solution can be found only when the situation is understood as part of a system, paying attention to the interrelationships among the parts and the functioning of the system as whole.

Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two elephants.
Future is new, unfamiliar and unpredictable.

Solutions cannot be calculated in advance based on what has worked in the past.

Emergent solutions have to worked out as situations unfold.
People involved look at things very differently from each other.

Solutions cannot be given by authorities.

The people involved must participate in creating and implementing solutions.
Something different.
Something unexpected.
Something we didn't want.
Something we don't
know how to deal with!
Something happens!
"I like to be in control...
...but I hate to be controlled."
Control is the natural enemy
of what we need to thrive in chaos:
Control can shut down inspiration and create apathy and despair.
Status quo and
more of the same.
Working in the space where chaos meets order takes us to:
"The New"
Nothing connects
Nothing gets done
Apathy and despair
In traveling through chaos, the first thing we meet is fear. We fear that if we go into chaos, we will never get out.

In chaos, confusion is the normal condition.
The new can come only when we let go of our:

Old answers
Pre-conceived ideas
Maybe even world view

As we let go of these things, fear goes with them. Possibility and creativity replace them.
Emergence Zone
Business as usual
Nothing makes
sense at first
People can become frustrated,
confused, overwhelmed, insensitive, defensive.
People have to struggle to integrate new ideas.
It takes courage and commitment to hold and stay in reflective space.
Stronger connections
Better decisions
Wiser action
Surprising results
Deeper sesne of community

Same people.
Asking the same questions.
Sitting at the same table.
Using the same process.
We do the same things we usaully do,
so we get the same answers we usually get.

More and more often those answers are not what
we need to get to the goal.
And a lot of people
really HATE the meetings.
Tools for leading in chaos
Tune to the Edge
Balance information flow, diversity and difference, connections inside and outside the organization, power differential and anxiety, instead of controlling information, forcing agreement.
Uncover and work with paradox and tension. Do not shy away from them as if they were unnatural.
Multiple Actions
Try multiple actions at the fringes.
Let direction arise.
You don’t have to be “sure” before you proceed with anything.
Shadow System
Listen to the shadow system and informal communities of practice. Informal relationships, rumor, and sense making contribute to individuals’ mental models and actions.
Allow complex systems to emerge out of the links among simple systems that work well and are capable of operating independently.
Competition +

Mix cooperation and competition--it's both/and, not either/or.
Clockware + Swarmware
Balance data and intuition, planning and acting, safety and risk, giving due honor to each.
Good Enough

Provide minimum specifications, rather than trying to plan every little detail.
Complexity Lens
View an organization through the metaphor of a living organism/system.
Clarity and consesus
grow from a seed idea
Howard Mason
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