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
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea..."
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Business journalism is saturated with the last half-century's collective wisdom on what makes a good leader. That's great, but sifting through it is sometimes like boiling the ocean. Often we're left wondering about scale: How much of that greatness is a direct result of the leader's style and decisions, and how much of it is about who and what activity surrounds the leader? Like trying to pin down what makes a good film, it's not so easy anymore to separate the auteur from the script, the actors, the editors, the crew...Why? Because most organizations today are complex networks of internal and external stakeholders. Like a great director, a great leader today is really a network orchestrator.
“O Captain, My Captain”? or “a man of many notions”?
I like boat metaphors. Traditionally, the leader of an organization is the one who’s supposed to steer the boat, which requires both a tactical mastery of the boat itself and a strategic (and in the best cases, intuitive) understanding of the waters and the wind. These days, though, it gets harder and harder to separate ourselves from the ocean and the others navigating its waters, because together we are mapping new lands at an astonishing pace. Look at what e... Read more
There is new light for the dismal science. Economics as a social science is concerned with the foundational factors underlying the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. And over the last century the application of economic analysis has spread and is seen across a diverse fields (business, finance, health care, government) and subjects (war, crime, education, law, politics, religion, social institutions, science, environment). Economics has become one of the most complex of fields to study and understand. But instead of growing more dismal, there is new light. Network scientists are providing old fields like economics with new ways to look at and understand these complex, networked systems. All too often, those furthest from the core discipline of a problem are most likely to provide an innovative solution.
In the words of MIT scientist César Hidalgo
, economics is a relatively ephemeral subject, resting on deep roots in a process that goes back to the foundations of energy and matter and information.
And in viewing the economy in such primal terms, he concludes that the factors that drive resilience and innovation in nature’s networks or ecosystems — namely diversity — should likewise be predictive of an economy’s resilience, innovation, and ability to grow.
Traditional economic measures fail to capture the kind of diversity that drives growth. Identifying factors of production such a... Read more
The term ‘resilience’ is thrown around quite a lot lately. Whether it be in our personal or professional lives, we all know that being resilient is crucial to both survival and success. But what does resilience really mean? In network science, resilience is the ability of a system to withstand perturbations from its environment. In plain English, that basically means to roll with the punches. What does that look like at the firm level — for strategists, teams, and organizational leaders? What knowledge can we apply from network behaviors toward building more resilient, sustainable communities?
"In nature, the systems most likely to survive are the ones that can adapt to diverse environmental circumstances. Often that means being able to change as demands from the environment become ever more complex."
Dr. John Izzo
is an employee engagement expert, the author of six books including Stepping Up
, and a network science enthusiast who applies his knowledge of complex systems to helping organizations such as NASA, IBM, and Microsoft navigate complex challenges and transitions. According to Dr. Izzo, one of the best ways to understand resilience on an individual and community level is to look closely at nature. In nature, the systems most likely to survive are ... Read more
A background in geology made one thing certain for Christine Lloyd: Nature isn’t made of straight lines. Neither are people, the prima materia of organizations.
“I often use water as a metaphor in systems work,” she says. “When I get stuck on an organizational problem, I always think back to ‘what would the flow of water do here?’”
Those may sound like words uttered by a philosopher, but they’re grounded in science. The theoretical foundation of Chris’ work is complex adaptive systems, using whole systems thinking to help steer organizations and their leaders through periods of complex and unpredictable change.
Chris’ work has taken her around the world and through diverse industries. She has served as a senior executive in blue chip organizations such as Shell, ICI, Nokia, Cancer Research UK and UNICEF.
What wisdom can be gained from 20 years of applying systems science to massive organizational transformations? As our world becomes more complex, our organizations (like anything in nature) must also complexify in order to meet the demands of their environment. Drawing from her pioneering work with Nokia and UNICEF, Chris shared with d4e how she created innovative network structures to make change and innovation easier in a VUCA
world — bef... Read more