Complexity Keeps Changing the Game

Complexity has transformed our organizations and industries from being more like board games with established rules, to resembling video games where the rules of engagement must be discovered and may change as the game evolves. Like video games, we now have to experiment to find out what works, learn from our own experiences and the experiences of others, and build new skills on the fly in order to gain ground. And then repeat at the next level, when the game changes again.

Consider how we communicate with customers. It wasn’t that long ago when messages were “pushed out” to customers through a few well-worn channels, such as TV, print and direct mail. Fast forward to today where companies focus on building relationships with their customers by educating them, asking their opinions, entertaining them, and letting them customize their experiences.  There are a mind-boggling number of options available for building customer relationships.  And determining what “success” is can be equally elusive. Do the number of Facebook “likes” and twitter followers improve the bottom line? It’s hard to say. Will the game change before we figure that out? Most likely.  Solid ground is hard to find in the world of complexity.

Many organizations have not equipped their people with what they need to compete successfully in a complex world. Employees are forced to take on challenges they’ve never seen before with perspectives, approaches and tools that worked well in stable environments, but can tend to create more problems than they solve when creative thinking and innovation are required. Managers who cling to believing they have to have all of the answers, who punish mistakes, avoid difficult conversations, and defend their silos hobble the organization’s ability to respond effectively to change.

Coaching-based leadership is the game changer that gives people the perspectives and tools they need to navigate in complexity. When people use insight-based coaching approaches they look at the whole not just the parts, they focus on creating insight rather than arguing about being right, and they open their minds to what’s possible rather than narrowing their attention to what’s wrong. They also learn how to learn from their experiences and they help others to do the same.

We need to equip everyone in our organizations with these capabilities if we expect them to engage others, build meaningful leadership bench strength, take risks, innovate, and continuously discover new ways to gain points in this new complex game.

Join the conversation:

How has complexity changed “the game” for you, your organization or industry?

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Next week we’ll look at how complexity is changing what it means to lead


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