Collective Complexity

Collective complexity

December 29, 2010

We marvel how individual ants with very limited skills collectively build complex hills and social systems. But human organizations must also collectively accomplish feats much too complex for any one of us alone. So what is a better way to meld our individually limited capacities into a collective marvel? That starts with leadership developing and organizing us to do it.

A business world in Compression is so different from that of today that in transition we must navigate “between two worlds at once.” That complicates things, and just trying to satisfy the needs and whims of customers in today’s world does in a lot of organizations.

Complex organization is simplified if everybody understands its objectives and how they contribute to them. To work this trick, leaders must compose a few simple objectives that fashion structure out of muddle. Well done, people can embellish this basic framework as needed without warping it beyond recognition, somewhat like jazzing up a basic melody, but instantly trimming the fluff back into the core theme without wandering off onto a different melody.

That’s why a basic tenet of Compression is to service clientele as well or better than now, but use dramatically less energy, materials, and toxins to do so. This may seem unimaginably tough at first, but it’s clear. Leaders can fashion specific objectives moving in that direction.

But what about profitability, you say. That’s a requirement, not the objective. Cash flow is a necessity, just as blood circulation is necessary for life, but keeping it going is a daily obsession only if we are critically ill.

Compression-related objectives more demanding than mere profitability are likely to make financial health less of a problem. But to do this we need vigorous learning organizations with much greater innovative capacities than merely making money in the easiest way possible.

Where to start? By whetting competences and developing people to make huge improvements using the business model of today: new skills; life cycle projections; and a much more effective learning system. Discipline starts to be more from the learning system itself than from managers’ personal control, or a budgetary system.

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