Boundaries are a funny thing, aren’t they?
Boundaries exist in various realms of our everyday life. Whether it’s within relationships, hobbies, or careers, boundaries are necessary (just ask your cell membranes). With clear boundaries, you can save yourself and/or your company from getting burned by an unforgiving fire. When we define our personal boundaries in social situations, they help us understand our own preferences and value systems. Boundaries in business and finance help us feel safe and secure — like when we’re protecting our assets, managing our career path or finding competitive advantages.
Organizational design is one area where designing boundaries has been used to encourage cooperation and innovation, foster large-scale cultural shifts, and develop self-responsible teams and employees. The idea of liberating structures
, for example, was first introduced by William Torbert
, a proponent of integral approaches to leadership. Torbert wanted to explore organizational structures that would guide people to develop the skills to guide themselves. Setting simple rules in a collaborative setting can make it easier for people who don’t know each other to create something emergent together.
If boundaries in the home and corporate workplace are seen in this positive, life-altering light, why are they initially thought to be restrictiv... Read more
We humans have ants in our pants. We are road warriors, million-mile-flyers, web-surfers, because-it-was-there climbers. We come upon this tendency honestly. Our early ancestors sprung up and out of Africa 60,000 years ago, on a grand trek that involved land bridges and star navigation. The march continues to this day. Only now, on a grand scale, we really have nowhere left to go. No uncharted points on the map. No hospitable land to grab. Not many stones left unturned. Our billions have spread far and wide and down and up, scraping the sky and mining the deeps and paving even the wildest of paradises.
We social innovators are not immune to the adventurer’s inclination. As “change-makers,” we strain against the start gate, our eyes trained on the finish line. Armed with sticky notes, we rapidly prototype our way from pain point to panacea, from shame to solvency.
“We should not rush through the in-between places.”
Of course our work is needed. I am no stranger to sticky notes. I work as a strategist, helping social innovators crystallize their organizational identities squarely in the solutions space. But I am coming to realize that the rush from problem to solution may be leaving something essential in its wake. My colleagues and I are stepping into, and learning to savor, the rich and marvelous state that exists between problem and solution. A less celebrated place, for certain, but a place well worth our attention if we ... Read more
Nature is the only system that has been stamped robust by time. Once we recognize businesses are living systems and not machines, as ecosystem designers of any stripe be it corporate leader or parent, we are faced with the most important question of all: When to intervene?
We in the West tend to take a proactive stance. We have a bias to action. We take the initiative. We seek to control the situation. This has hidden costs. One is that we are all overstimulated — which manifests in high blood pressure and a myriad of stress-related illnesses. These are side effects of an overactive stance. But there are more direct costs, too.
is the medical term for harm from intervention or death by treatment. It is the third leading cause of death in America. Treatment kills more people every year in the United States than any single cancer. This would make health care a pretty slow-learning field, as they have had the Hippocratic oath
(First Do No Harm) for 24 centuries. But health care at least recognizes the notion of harm from treatment. As Nassim Taleb has pointed out, politics and economics have no such term.
In the inaugural issue of design4emergence, biologist Rolf Muertter asked, “Read more
What can the health care crisis, Switzerland, and the US military teach us about network design?
Technology is redrawing our maps of our organizations, our communities, and even our nations along virtual terrain. In the age of large-scale networks, do boundaries really matter anymore? It’s an important question to ask if you are someone who makes executive decisions for your organization. And if you have any part in designing human networks, complexity science tells us that you should consider carefully how you design the boundaries of your networks to encourage or suppress connectivity.
No, we aren’t talking about building any walls. We’re referring to the boundaries between networks, where interactions create unintended consequences. Today, many of the world’s vital systems are global ones. Modern transportation can put you halfway around the world in a day. Our food system is global, tightly linked, and specialized. Our communication systems allow us to collaborate across a global network, making innovation accelerate more rapidly than we’ve ever experienced. The scale of the teams we can build has increased. Even the networked applications we use to produce innovation (e.g., collaboration tools, online communities, big data, new currencies, new organizational designs) are experiencing an explosion of new forms.
As hyperconnectivity becomes more of a reality everywhere, do we really understand its implication... Read more