Is complexity a myth?

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Keynote less2012 conference in Tallinn 13.11.2012

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Is complexity a myth?

  1. 1. Esko Kilpi keynote at the LESS2012 conference 1
  2. 2. is complexity a myth? 2
  3. 3. let’s look at what we do and how we think 3
  4. 4. our mainstream management and organizational approaches are derived from the era of theproduction of tangible goods and high-cost/low- quality communications 4
  5. 5. physical tasks could be broken up in a reductionist way. bigger tasks could be divided by assigning people to different, smaller and fairly independent parts of the whole 5
  6. 6. the division of labor reduced organizational effort and the cost of work in factory productionthe division of labor also increased the quality of work through specializationthis led managers to focus on the efficiency of activities that were separated from other activities 6
  7. 7. organizational design was seen as the planning andexecution of a collection of independent, but connected jobs forming the workflow system 7
  8. 8. connections were based on top-down command-and- control and horizontal, sequential processesin both cases the action of one part was meant to set off the action of another 8
  9. 9. interaction was understood as one-way signals, asystem of senders and receivers, a system of causes and effects 9
  10. 10. the big move we are in the midst of is towards an economy that is more centered on information products than physical products 10
  11. 11. for intellectual tasks, it is not possible to findindependent parts because intellectual tasks are bydefault linked and interdependent, creating a totally different work environment 11
  12. 12. the characteristics of the new economy are differentfrom what we are used to: the production of physical goods was capital-intensive, leading to centralized management structures and shareholder capitalism 12
  13. 13. now it is much more about finding brains than findingmoney. the good news is that you are not limited to the local supplywork on information products does not need to be co- located because of the Internet 13
  14. 14. decentralized action plays a much more important role today than ever before 14
  15. 15. the architecture of work is the network and the basic unit of work is not a process or a job role but a task 15
  16. 16. the opportunity we have is in new relational forms that don’t mimic the governance models of industrial, hierarchical firms 16
  17. 17. mainstream management mind-sets are not only unhelpful, but wrong in a world of widely distributedvalue creation and ubiquitous, high quality connectivity 17
  18. 18. how we think 18
  19. 19. mainstream ways of thinking about management are based on the sciences of certainty 19
  20. 20. the whole system of strategic choice, goal setting and choosing actions to reach the given goals in a controlled way depends on predictability 20
  21. 21. this familiar causal foundation cannot explain the reality we face. almost daily, we experience the inability ofpeople to choose what happens in their organizations – or in their countries 21
  22. 22. we live in a linked and complex world 22
  23. 23. complexity refers to a pattern, a movement in time that is at the same time predictable and unpredictable, knowable and unknowable 23
  24. 24. 24
  25. 25. 25
  26. 26. healthy, ordinary, everyday life is always complex, no matter what the situation is. there is absolutely no linearity in the world of human beings 26
  27. 27. the often-asked question is what causes things to happenwhen we seek for causal explanations, we begin to split the world into independent entities. there are causes on the one hand and effects on the other 27
  28. 28. 28
  29. 29. when we try to understand a person’s actions or try to understand what is happening, we search for an independent set of conditions that bring these about 29
  30. 30. this is why we search for the good managers and blame the bad ones. the manager is the independent cause – and deserves to be paid accordingly. the rest of us are the effects 30
  31. 31. from a social business standpoint the individualistic view is fundamentally misleading. one cannot be inspiring or energizing alonethese qualities are co-created in an active process of mutual recognition 31
  32. 32. an inspiring person is only inspiring by virtue of others who treat her this way a good decision is only good if there are agreeable people around 32
  33. 33. mainstream business thinking sees the self and itsrelationships based on cartesian philosophy; I think, therefore I ameverything in management takes place from the first- person point of view 33
  34. 34. cartesian isolation was strengthened in newton’sphysics, where matter and also people, were seenmetaphorically as billiard balls, bumping against one another every now and then 34
  35. 35. billiard balls don’t really meetthey don’t get inside each other and alter each other’sinternal qualities. during a collision they may undergo a change of position or direction, but they remain essentially the same 35
  36. 36. this is why psychology and sociology are separatedisciplines. this also explains why human capital and social capital are seen as separate 36
  37. 37. in the cause-and-effect model of communication a thought arising within one individual is translated intowords, which are then transmitted to another individual 37
  38. 38. at the receiving end, the words translate into the same thought, if the formulation of the words and the transmission of those words are good enough 38
  39. 39. 39
  40. 40. so why are there misunderstandings? 40
  41. 41. in the model of complex causality, communication takesthe form of a gesture made by an individual that evokes a response from someone else the meaning can only be known in the gesture and response together 41
  42. 42. if I smile at you and you respond with a smile, themeaning is friendly, but if you respond with a cold stare, the meaning may be contempt gestures and responses cannot be separated but constitute one act 42
  43. 43. what if you would think of services as gestures, or products as gestures... 43
  44. 44. neither side can independently choose the meanings or control the conversation. thus you can never control communication you cannot predict 44
  45. 45. complexity and the individual 45
  46. 46. identity is constructed from being in relationships, being connected, as contrasted with the mainstream view of identity through separationknowledge of self and the other thus becomes viewed as co-constructed 46
  47. 47. mutually recognizing and mutually supporting relationships are the sources of progress 47
  48. 48. complexity and the organization 48
  49. 49. organizations are creative, responsive processes ofcommunication with the capacity to constantly self- organize and re-organize solutions are always temporary and contextual 49
  50. 50. rather than an organization being though of as animposed structure of separate, autonomous functions, today’s organization arises from the interactions of individuals who need to come together 50
  51. 51. actions always emerge in a network of relationships – in co-action instead of cause and effect 51
  52. 52. an organization is a continuous process of organizing 52
  53. 53. why this is important now 53
  54. 54. the really big opportunity of social business is toreconfigure agency in a way that brings relationships into the centreit is about interdependence instead of independence 54
  55. 55. the new competitive edge comes from openness and interactive capacity: the ability to participate and connect, as and when needed 55
  56. 56. when information is transparent, different people seedifferent things and new interdependencies are created, thus changing the organization  the easier the access that people have to information and one another, the more possibilities there are 56
  57. 57. there can be no change without changes in the patterns of communication 57
  58. 58. organizations of any kind, no matter how large or how small they are, are continuously reproduced and transformed in the ongoing interactionthese patterns are highly correlated with performance 58
  59. 59. every human relationship serves as a model for what is possible. learning is the fundamental process of socialization within any relationship we are in the process of becoming 59
  60. 60. leading and following in the traditional corporatesense have seen the leader making people follow him through motivation and rewards. the leader also decided who the followers should be 60
  61. 61. when seen through the logic of complexity and social business, leading and following have a very different dynamic leading in this new sense is not position-based, but recognition-based. people, the followers decide 61
  62. 62. the leader is someone people trust to be at theforefront in an area which is temporally meaningful for thempeople also recognize as the leader someone who inspires, energizes and empowers them 62
  63. 63. because of the diversity of contexts people link to,there can never be just one “boss”. you might even claim that from the point of view taken here, it ishighly problematic if a person only has one leader. it would mean attention blindness as a default state 63
  64. 64. following is at best a process of active, creative learning through observing and simulating desired practicesleading is doing one’s work in an open, inspiring andtransparent way. leading is engaging with people and being reflective 64
  65. 65. patterns of recognition and patterns ofcommunication are the most predictive activities there are in forecasting viability, agility and also human well-being 65
  66. 66. the conclusion 66
  67. 67. there is a need for rethinking what management is and refreshing the theories it is built on 67
  68. 68. the story continues 68
  69. 69. please follow 69
  70. 70. @EskoKilpi 70