10 Reasons to Embrace Complexity

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leading Through Complexity and Uncertainty

In The Center For Creative Leadership’s White Paper, The Future of Leadership Development, Nick Petrie describes the new work environment as “typified by an increased level of complexity and interconnectedness.” This new work environment requires new leadership skills, including a willingness to lead when the situation is complex and the outcome uncertain.

“Embrace complexity,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos told about 3,000 graduates who persevered through a national financial crisis and devastating Nashville floods during their tenure at Vanderbilt University.

“Challenge your assumptions, welcome disagreements and along with others make a mission of discovery and education,” Zeppos advised in his May 11, 2012 Commencement address. “Be confident that the habits of mind you have practiced here … will help you face the future and all the unexpectedness it brings. … Living in this way you will make us all proud, and you will make this world a better place.”

Chancellor Urges Vanderbilt Grads to Embrace Complexity, Vanderbilt University, insidevandy.com

 Complexity Presents New Challenges for Leaders

Leading through complexity is not easy.  According to Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights From the 2010 Global CEO Study at IBM.com, “Today, CEOs are telling us that the complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world is their primary challenge. And, a surprising number of them told us that they feel ill-equipped to succeed in this drastically different world.”

Why Should We Embrace Complexity?

Embracing complexity means acknowledging that we do not have the answers, and we do not know the outcome. It means being willing to think and lead in new ways.

10 reasons why we need to embrace complexity and learn our way through uncertain times:

1. Because complexity is the way things are

2. Because by embracing the way things are, we seek to understand them at the level where we need to resolve problems

3. Because embracing complexity helps us avoid oversimplified, knee-jerk reactions

4. Because it forces us to rethink what we do at a higher level, and keeps us from just going through the motions of leading

5. Because it helps us get beyond the surface chaos to see naturally complex and connected systems

6. Because our organizations are relying on us to make decisions in ways that benefit multiple stakeholders

7. Because it is how we learn and grow

8. Because it is one of the key competencies sought in leaders, and it will make us highly employable and highly valuable to the organizations we serve

9.  Because it makes problems and solutions clearer

10. Because considering the impact of our choices at multiple levels helps us make more responsible decisions

What Happens If We Don’t Embrace it?

The old ways of thinking (linear, analytical, sequential problem solving for example) are not going to help us lead successfully through complexity.

The linear mindset does not reflect how organizations are structured (they are systems made up of subsystems), so solutions generated using linear thinking are generated “out of context” and are not likely to be successful.  This means that more problems are generated by each solution.
Five Unintended Consequences of Linear Problem Solving, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog

If we fail to acknowledge and wrestle with the complexities of leadership in a global society, then…

  1. We see only parts and fragments of problems, not natural complexity and connectedness
  2. We attempt to solve problems at the level of the parts and fragments, and in doing that,
  3. We create new problems

Related Posts

Leading Ethically Through Complexity: How to Prepare Leaders, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog

Five Unintended Consequences of Linear Problem Solving, Linda Fisher Thornton, Leading in Context Blog

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For more, see new book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2012 Leading in Context LLC 

Food Ethics: The Delicate Balance of Nature and Nutrition

© Microsoft

The Delicate Balance of Nature and Nutrition

We are learning through research that nutrition is more complex and delicately balanced than we had thought. Changing foods or using only part of a food that we think of as healthy may change the health benefits drastically.

Savvy consumers today tend to look for whole foods that have the natural health benefits that our bodies need.

The food industry is adapting by removing chemical additives and incorporating more whole grains back into foods:

The Food and Drug Administration is making changes to food safety laws that many consider to be long overdue. I noticed that school lunches got a major overhaul this year:

Whole Foods Provide Benefits Not Found in the Parts

What happens when you remove part of a food? It turns out that there are nutritional benefits in the whole food that are not gained from eating parts of the food.

Here is an interesting example of what happens when you remove the husk from grains of rice:

  • whole brown rice (lower glycemic index – 55) (gluten free) (whole grain)
  • white rice (which is whole brown rice with the fibrous husk removed) –  (higher glycemic index – 64)(may not be gluten free due to contents in sprayed-on vitamins to add vitamins back)

Linus Pauling Institute at the University of Oregon

“Is white rice gluten free…?” at Yahoo.com

The Simple Answer: It’s Whole for a Reason

When food is consumed in its natural whole state, it seems to include necessary factors that regulate the body, prevent disease and regulate weight. When it is altered to appeal to consumer tastes or to increase profits, the negative health impact appears to be dramatic.

Altered foods (such as the brown rice/white rice example) increase the body’s glycemic load. Higher glycemic load is implicated in diabetes and obesity among other health problems that are currently escalating.

Several lines of recent scientific evidence have shown that individuals who followed a low-GI diet over many years were at a lower risk for developing both type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease than others. High blood glucose levels or repeated glycemic “spikes” following a meal may promote these diseases by increasing oxidative stress to the vasculature and also by the direct increase in insulin levels.[11]   “Glycemic Index” – Wikipedia

According to this study, whole foods take more energy to digest and eating whole foods burns more calories than eating processed foods:

Should We Consider Altered Food (Without the Health Benefits of Whole Food) to Be “Food”?

Three questions that we should ponder…

  1. Should “food” by definition only include food from nature that has not been changed?
  2. Should “food” by definition have to include all of the parts that came from nature?
  3. Should “food” by definition be healthful for humans?

For More Information

Center for Science in the Public Interest

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/grains/gigl.html

http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OC/OfficeofFoods/ucm241192.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?
 
  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2011 Leading in Context LLC 

Highlights From The Donchian Symposium: Evolving Perspectives on Ethics

Tree-Lined Road The Donchian Symposium: Evolving Perspectives on Ethics, held recently at the University of Richmond, was a groundbreaking cross-disciplinary look at how cultural perspectives on ethical leadership are changing. Presenters raised emerging issues and cultural challenges related to ethics in ways that made them clear and compelling.

I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and especially appreciated the fact that scholars, interested citizens and business people sat side by side and shared their reactions to what they were learning.

If you did not attend, it would be well worth your time to review the highlights from the Symposium, which are available online.  The Donchian Symposium: Evolving Perspectives on Ethics held at the University of Richmond on September 20, 2010.

Where do you learn about ethical leadership? What information are you having trouble finding? What would be helpful to you?

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?
 
  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2010 Leading in Context LLC 

Planned Obsolescence: Is it Ethical? No. Can We Still Have the Newest Gadgets? Yes!

Is Planned Obsolescence Ethical?  Every business should know its position on this important question.  Do you know yours?

Many companies have the technology to make products that last far longer, and choose not to use it. You know what comes next – the products wear out faster and we have to buy them more often. Is that a responsible way to achieve profitability? Here are some opinions on that question (all of which could be used for good leader discussions about how your company deals with the question).

A video overview:  The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard

Articles

Is Planned Obsolescence Socially Responsible? by Sharon Beder in Engineers Australia

What is Planned Obsolescence? by Wisegeek.com

Creative Destruction and Destructive Creations: Environmental Ethics and Planned Obsolescence by Joseph Guiltinan, Journal of Business Ethics

There are environmentally friendly solutions that don’t require that we give up our love for gadgets. This article proposes one way to do it.

How Planned Obsolescence Can Be Good for the Planet by Collin Dunn

What are the Next Steps?

  • Use these resources to get your business thinking about less wasteful ways to deliver products and services.
  • Ask your customers what they think about the changes you come up with.
  • Post a comment here about changes you are making to balance the “newest” gadgets with earth-friendly strategies for making and distributing them.
  • Subscribe to the Leading in Context™ Blog to stay in the loop!

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?
 
  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2010 Leading in Context LLC 

Trends: How Businesses are Changing their Corporate Responsibility

A recent two-part article by Fast Company blogger Alice Korngold includes trends and predictions about how businesses are changing their corporate responsibility. Here is a small sample of the useful information you’ll find by reading the article:

“Three interrelated predictions: First, we will see the continued growth of what I call the empathy economy, which puts a premium on people over short-term profits. Second, digitally empowered consumers will demand corporations have purpose–ethical business models. Finally, my recent trips to Asia suggest that China, a rapidly growing consumer market with an enormous need for accountability, presents a huge opportunity for companies to develop ethical brands that consumers can trust.”

Devin Stewart, Director, Global Policy Innovations, Carnegie Council, quoted in Fast Company article “CSR 2010 Resolutions and Predictions.”

Your competitors and your peers are making changes now to respond to these trends. Key business leaders share what you’ll need to do to stay competitive in this two-part article.

CSR 2010 Resolutions and Predictions From Business and Social Sector Leaders: Part I

CSR 2010 Resolutions and Predictions from Business and Social Sector Leaders: Part II

 

For New Blog Posts, visit LeadinginContext.com/Blog

522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?
 
  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2010 Leading in Context LLC 

 

100 Trends to Watch for 2010

Review over 100 trends that will impact your business in 2010 to 2040 and beyond:

For New Blog Posts, visit LeadinginContext.com/Blog

 

For New Blog Posts, visit LeadinginContext.com/Blog

522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?
 
  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2010 Leading in Context LLC 

 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2010 Leading in Context LLC 

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