Innovation and lightning speed change agility now separate the world's best leaders & companies from the rest of the pack. In the new economy, the world can seem a bit mind-boggling at first. At least until you understand the “4 absolutes of complex adaptive systems”. Let’s consider the 4 absolutes impact on innovation & change.
Why are the 4 absolutes important? Because 70% of organizational change efforts fail. In other words, you have a 3 in 10 chance of being successful using old school business models and rules that are simply overwhelmed by the massive complexity in today’s global markets (welcome to the new economy). If you understand complex adaptive systems and the 4 absolutes, your success rate will skyrocket. Pretty simple decision.
If you haven’t read “Surfing the Edge of Chaos” by Pascale, Millemann, and Gioja – it is a must read for entrepreneurial visionaries, pioneers, and game changers who want to lead in complex global markets. Bonus - It's a quick read.
The 4 Absolutes Of Innovation & Change:
1. Equilibrium is the precursor to death. Some call it entropy, others call it protectors of the status quo, but I call it burying your head in the sand and waiting for the extinction consultant to show up at your door. If you are not moving forward - creating your organization and your products for the future - then you are dying. The only question is how quickly you are dying and whether you have noticed your impending obituary yet (remember Kodak).
2. In the face of compelling opportunity or threat, all living things move to the edge of chaos – if you let them. The edge of chaos is where innovation thrives and experimentation goes off the chart. This is where the visionaries play. This is where the 10x, 100 x, and 1,000x quantum leaps happen. As leaders, you need to help your company, your teams, and your employees move to the edge of chaos, whether it scares the hell out of you or not. While counter-intuitive, by giving up perceived control at the center and relying on the distributed intelligence within your organization – you and your organization gain exponential power.
3. Living systems (organizations) will self organize on the edge of chaos. If you provide just the minimum number of rules & structures, your organization and employees will self organize on the edge of chaos – leaping into new levels of potential. Too many rules & bureaucratic busy bodies will kill innovation & change every time. In other words, leaders need to have the patience to bite their tongues (use duct tape if required), the wisdom to send the bureaucratic busy bodies on a little vacation, and the will to let the organization self organize. You just need to give them a chance. If the control freaks start screaming “Who the hell is in charge here?”, you are probably on the right track.
4. Transformational change is non-linear. Let me repeat – TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE IS NON-LINEAR. It can not be controlled. It cannot be “directed” along a linear path. Once you change one thing, you will have both intended and unintended consequences rippling throughout the system. As a special forces friend in the military likes to say, “Make a great battle plan, but realize the step-by-step plans go out the window when the bullets and RPGs start zinging past your head. Then you start innovating, collaborating, and adapting at lightning speed - or you're dead.” The key is to approximate your change interventions in the general direction of the outcomes you desire. From there, you improvise, collaborate, and make rapid course corrections.
Wow, sounds like Chaos, right? Well, it is not chaos at all – it just “Surfs The Edge of Chaos”. In reality, it is just complex adaptive systems at work. Once you understand complex adaptive systems, you realize it's not really so complex after all.
Famed Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendall Holmes once reportedly said “I would give my life (or right arm) for simplicity on the far side of complexity”. Well Oliver, we are 80 years too late in getting the news to you, but there is indeed simplicity on the far side of complexity – and it is really cool.
Cheers - Martin Fox
Named "One of the best leadership educators in the USA" and recipient of the 2011 Inspiration Award for impacting global change, Martin Fox is the Founder & CEO of the Game Changer Network. The Game Changer Network connects entrepreneurial visionaries, pioneers, and game changers with top new economy experts and successful global leaders who've been there.
Martin Fox is a Cornell & Columbia trained Organizational Psychologist and award-winning global expert in leadership, change, and high performance.