People struggle to understand big systems, such as nations and alliances. It’s just too big and complicated (what better proof than U.K. citizens voting to leave the European Union.) So they try to break things down into simpler pieces and set up barriers (silos, fiefdoms, departments). Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work in today’s complex reality dominated by interdependencies and network dynamics. Business can do a lot better. They can lead the way, in fact, much more than mediocre politics, in demonstrating how certain systemic principles can serve the common good.
New business models for the good of all
Today we are witnessing new business models, such as the B Corporation, where businesses show how they can be profitable AND serve the stakeholders at large (entire supply chains and entire communities). But let’s not be naive. It’s not enough to make statements about caring for the community or the environment. Big corporations can do that while they continue to do harm. In order to change the world for the better businesses need to engage in whole system transformation. They need to design every aspect of their workflow to sustain constructive interdependencies to allow faster results, continuous improvement, feedback and continuous innovation, providing increasingly valid solutions for the entire supply chain, internal and external. (See ‘Transforming the Organization Into a Whole System‘).
The opportunity of digitalization
Digitalization is offering us the unique opportunity to break down unnecessary barriers of time and space with undoubted advantages. The problem is the speed at which it is happening. Unless we equip ourselves with the right kind of cognitive support we will tend to react by trying to hang on to or go back to what is “familiar”. Time will tell how that decision plays out for the UK and in Europe, but in the meantime, systemic thinking is a skill that we can and must learn to catch up with the times and continuously evolve for the good of all.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management, founded by Dr. Domenico Lepore. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of the forthcoming ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York. Angela’s new business novel+ website The Human Constraint looks at how Deming and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation.