Are we really capable of thinking and reasoning? Even a superficial glance at newspaper articles seem to suggest that we are not exercising these capacities. Joined up thinking is scarce. There is a crisis of leadership as one catastrophic decision after another shapes the lives of workers and citizens.
The world is complex
Our reality has shifted and leaders are not keeping up with what it takes to lead today. Leaders need to understand what complexity means. The need to learn the thinking skills to navigate through the choices that are available and the implications of any decisions they make. This means having a grasp on the fact that our world is no longer one where old solutions can work. We are part of a complex pattern of interdependencies. Any attempt to “cut away” in order to simplify matters doesn’t work (Brexiteers take note) because of all the interconnections that exist and that must be managed. Trying to control organizations by dividing them up into silos doesn’t work. This is because work has to flow across functions for optimal results. Any attempt to keep using solutions just because they worked in the past (Business Schools take note) doesn’t work because in today’s complex world change happens in an exponential and non-linear way.
A new mindset
Leadership today cannot be achieved through “techniques” and “tips”. It requires real knowledge (systemic) and a new mindset. This mindset is a cognitive leap to becoming comfortable with continuous change and innovation, to be able to see your way through apparent paradoxes. It requires the mental flexibility to challenge assumptions and mental models and understand the needs of others with empathy so a common goal can be achieved. This calls for a leadership that is not one of dominance but collaboration and service.
The knowledge exists and the mindset can be nurtured. It is exciting to know that the Santa Fe Institute has launched with great success an online M.S. Program in Complexity.
The massive contributions to management of W. Edwards Deming, Theory of Profound Knowledge and Eliyahu Goldratt, Theory of Constraints, offer a fully systemic philosophy and methods for contemporary management. At Intelligent Management, we have combined the implementational immediacy of the Theory of Constraints with the teachings of Deming in our systemic management methodology, The Decalogue, that has been implemented internationally for 20 years.
Our attention is increasingly sucked and fragmented by the noise of social media and thousands of other distractions. When we lose our capacity to think and reason we abandon our most distinguishing human feature and we become vulnerable. We can learn to think and reason systemically. We can acquire and strengthen on a day-to-day basis our ability to decode reality, take reasoned decisions and implement them, fully aware of potential systemic negative (and positive!) implications. The Thinking Process tools from the Theory of Constraints offers
With systemic reasoning, economic and ecological sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility become inherent, not add ons. We urgently need a new generation of leaders with the ability to think and reason in our age of complexity.
I highly recommend Joe Brewer’s article The Complexity of Cultural Evolution:
…the time is urgently upon us to synthesize and apply what is known about complexity and evolution. The fate of humanity literally depends on our ability to do this. In a time of unprecedented exponential change, we must learn to manage complex systems as they evolve in real time.
Sign up to our blog here and shift your thinking towards broader, systemic possibilities for yourself and your organization. Intelligent Management provides education and training on systemic management, W. Edwards Deming’s management philosophy and the Theory of Constraints (Decalogue methodology) in North America and Europe.
About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint , so far purchased in 21 countries around the globe. This downloadable novel uses narrative to look at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.