source:Enabling coherent explore spaces. I have written before about the need to… | by Sonja Blignaut | Feb, 2021 | Medium
Enabling coherent explore spaces
I have written before about the need to embrace messy coherence or in more technical terms, coherent heterogeneity, a term I first encountered in the work of Dave Snowden. While most intuitively understand this need, how to achieve it practically remains elusive. We are emerging from a time where alignment and efficiency were pursued like the holy grail. The shift towards embracing messiness and diversity seems almost impossible, especially to leaders and managers who equate competence with control. Yet, I encounter similar questions in almost every conversation: how do we distribute decision-making and authority? How do we build strong coherent cultures AND nurture diversity and adaptation? How do we maintain momentum when we are not able to plan and set clear goals? How do we organise and structure ourselves in ways that enable adaptation? There is no recipe for achieving this, however I think a possible key to finding our way lies in understanding how to enable coherence.
Embracing messy coherence requires us to let go of long-held assumptions of a world where stability, certainty and predictability are the norm. In this world, we were taught to use linear, deterministic management methods and tools and also that alignment to shared goals and values is key to success. The COVID19 pandemic and climate change, among others, have made us realize that we do indeed inhabit a complex and entangled world, one that is unpredictable. Like a deer in the headlights, we easily become paralyzed when dealing with uncertainty, which is the last thing we can afford. It is now necessary, for a post-pandemic world, to move forward rather than reverting back to the previous practices that failed us during these recent events.
In Abraham Lincoln’s words, we need to “think anew and act anew.”
The field of complexity, called by some the science of uncertainty, offers us a new lens or worldview when viewing social systems. When we shift from seeing human systems as machines and individuals as controllable and predictable cogs, to viewing them as complex adaptive systems through the lens of complexity science, new possibilities become evident.
In the past, we have relied on ordered systems due to them being predictable and controllable. These closed systems are easily managed through planning, goal setting, measuring, and feedback mechanisms that control the system’s outcomes. Closed systems operate using causal relationships (i.e., control the system’s outcome or ideal future state, B, by altering its input, A). I call this A to B thinking. And it is one of the primary reasons for the focus on alignment I described earlier.