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The Organization as a Complex Adaptive System

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

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Following is an image of the workings of a Complex Adaptive System – developed for a presentation about applying Complexity Science to Knowledge Management at the KMWorld 2011 Conference last week in Washington DC.

The basics:

  • When looking through the lens of Complexity Science, a company (organization) can be viewed as a Complex Adaptive System (just like an ecosystem).
  • It is made up of a diverse set of agents that interact with each other (people, budget, tools, etc.).
  • These agents interact within existing boundaries (geography, teams, business units, processes, etc.).
  • Patterns emerge from these interactions.
  • The agents respond to feedback from the emergent patterns and continually adapt to the feedback.

 

 

 

 

Click to view the prezi presentation from the conference presentation.

Categories: Complexity Tags: ,

Focus on Learning: 5 Tactics to Fuel Your Mind

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As a grad school graduate, I’ve done a great deal of thinking about how to satiate my renewed appetite for learning and how to keep it alive going forward.  It was surprising how easily I had forgotten my own love for learning and never want to be in that position again.

Recent brain science reveals useful information about how we fuel creativity, innovation, and make go-forward changes in our lives by changing the way we think as well as the health benefits of keeping our minds active.  All are tied to fueling the mind and learning.  So the question to ask yourself is…

What are you doing today to fuel your mind and keep learning?

Following are five tactics to consider:

1. Read Different Things

Not just the usual books or reading material that you have always enjoyed, but stretch yourself to read unexpected topics and resources.  Subscribing to various blogs can be a great way to expand exposure to different fields and perspectives.  One thing I do is to always have a couple of different books going.  For example, I am currently reading about Abraham Lincoln’s rise to the presidency and how he built his unique cabinet (history, politics, leadership and team-building), A Passage to India (a classic historical fiction novel), a couple of books on complexity science, a book on how to be a successful “free agent” in the emerging world of work, a fun teen oriented fiction novel from a series that my daughter is also reading, and I just finished a book about the history of philosophy.

Read more…

The Intersection of Social Media, Organization Change, and Complexity Science

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An interesting intersection exists in organizations between social media technology and practices, knowledge management programs (including communities of practice), learning strategy, change leadership, and organizational philosophy about the use of each.

Social media can be leveraged internally in organizations in the form of collaboration systems, learning management systems, blog and tweet tools and social networking tools (whether they are exclusively behind the firewall or leverage public spaces such as FB, LI, and twitter).  Use of these tools in conjunction with a change initiative can also have reciprocal value in that it can increase utilization / adoption of the social tools and processes as well.

Change initiatives within organizations absolutely should consider the social fabric that currently exists, the technology currently available and used within an organization, and the informal leadership that have significant influence via the social network. These should be considered as part of the overall change plan and included explicitly in the form of communication plan tactics and tactics to help identified stakeholders and stakeholder groups to transition along the change curve.

Change management / leadership consultants (whether internal or external) should become familiar with social / organizational network analysis (SNA / ONA), types of web 2.0/3.0 and social technologies available and used within client organizations, and understand how the world of social networking is a critical element of organizational culture and change behavior.  Conversely, the use of social tools and processes in conjunction with a change initiative should be considered in conjunction with an overall organizational social media strategy.

The social world we now must understand and leverage does add a layer of complexity to our work. Understanding organizations as complex adaptive systems (via complexity science) can be an extremely helpful lens as we (consultants) analyze current state and develop change plans accordingly. In the end, it’s all about creating environments where positive change can emerge and social networks often (maybe even always, now) play a central role.