Thriving In Complexity

A little over 8 years ago, in January of 2011, I first heard the term VUCA whilst at a meeting of the top 100 leaders in Syngenta. The challenges we faced developing integrated crop strategies across five business units taught my team and I something about leading in a complex world, and 4 years ago I launched a business focused on equipping  leaders with the resources to survive and thrive in environments characterized by complexity. 

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This is an important topic: leaders are realizing that, in the worlds of Marshall Goldsmith, “what got you here won’t get you there”, and I am increasingly being invited to share my experiences and perspectives at executive retreats and events, as well as with my coaching clients. 

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One of the most experienced guides is Jennifer Garvey Berger, author of several books on complexity, and CEO of a 50 person consulting business helping teams  develop strategies in the VUCA world. Jennifer’s latest book, Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps, highlights the five most common mistakes we make (for instance, our urge to try and control complexity rather than trying to exert influence over it), and offers fresh and practical ways out of these traps. Running through the book are three themes that echo much of our work at OutsideLens: 

  1. How being both self- aware and situationally-aware underpins leadership in complexity: biases and silos, for example, limit innovation and progress
  2. The importance of generating multiple options and non-standard alternatives: a new environment calls for a new map 
  3. The power of questions: asking “how could I be wrong?” or “who do I want to be next?” enables fresh perspectives to be explored, new patterns and answers to surface

In an increasingly complex and polarized world, Jennifer lays down a challenge for us all:  

“Can we take the longest walk in the world from our perspective to theirs, lay ours down for a minute and simply seek to understand another human being?”

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For those of us tired of trying to control complexity, my interview with Jennifer offers practical steps we can all take to both survive and thrive in this challenging environment.

Listen to the interview HERE.

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Mark Bidwell

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