Lessons from Winne the Pooh on how to navigate our complex world
For the last 20 years my specialism has been to work in situations that are often conflicted (sometimes high levels of disagreement and blame), with significant issues of either unrealised potential or underperformance, complexity, and often a feeling of stuckness or hopelessness amongst those involved.
VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) is a term growing in popularity to describe the conditions prevailing in many organisations and wider society. I’ve wondered of late whether the letter ‘V’ in VUCA could also be for Violent, to describe the frequent aggression, violence of language and tone, rapid polarisation, dismissal and denigration of the ‘Other’, that occurs in many situations.
What can you usefully do in such situations? How do you best proceed? What are the predictable potholes that many people fall into, unwittingly and painfully?
Spiral Dynamics: navigation for our turbulent times
Are you sitting comfortably? Few of us are, I suspect. It is hard to look at the world without concern. Perhaps you are concerned about the volatile leadership of Trump, or the rise of the right in Europe or perhaps the unpredictability of what Brexit will bring for both the UK and beyond. Do you sense a world that is out of control?
Would it surprise you to hear that these conditions were predicted over 40 years ago? What if the world is doing just what could have been expected if we knew more about how and why it changes? Would you want to know the rules of the game? Would you want to know how they affect big societal changes, organisational function and personal development alike? This story is about what we can do in the face of this turbulent world.
What is an Organisation really?
‘To organise’ is a verb, from which we have created a noun, ‘organisation’ but what is an organisation really? It’s not its articles of incorporation, or its buildings, or even just its people – Ralph Stacey, a leading scholar on complexity and management, argues it is the complex set of social processes and relationships interconnecting them. Although this makes sense, it is not our usual way of relating to organisations, and it has some profound implications for leadership and change.
Taking a Long-Term Sustainable Business Perspective
In 2014 Pfizer launched a bid for AstraZeneca (about £70bn). AstraZeneca, sceptical of the business case for a deal, managed to resist after a bitter battle. It turns out that Pfizer’s case was to solve its big problems of a 24% corporate tax rate; an accumulation of roughly $17bn in overseas cash, which would attract a hefty penalty if repatriated to the US; and a patchy pipeline of new drugs, confirming AstraZeneca’s scepticism that it “appears to have been fundamentally driven by the corporate financial benefits to its shareholders of cost savings and tax minimisation”. Just days ago, perhaps similarly, Unilever rejected Kraft’s £115bn takeover bid.
This way of looking at corporate value should not go unquestioned. As Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England said “Despite its durability and success, across countries and across time, the corporate model has not gone unquestioned… (there is) a rising tide of criticism of companies’ behaviour, from excessive executive remuneration, to unethical practices, to monopoly or oligopoly powers, to short-termism. These concerns appear to be both strongly-felt and widely-held.”
What might be getting in the way of business and its leaders from taking a long term sustainable perspective?
Embodied Leadership: the capacity to lead in the midst of complexity
In our current culture our head is the important bit. The body is what brings it around from meeting to meeting, and if our body’s lucky, we’ll take it to the gym occasionally and look after it. That’s common sense in our culture, and when we think about leadership, the body may have something to do with it – body language for example – but the head’s the important bit; right?
What if, however, that’s not right? What if the body does play a very important role, and that this goes beyond just body language?
What’s next for YOUR organisation?
Do you have the sense that something in your organisation needs to change, but you don’t know what?
Are you finding the world increasingly unpredictable and insecure?
Perhaps you are intrigued by all the buzz about “Reinventing Organisations” but find it a bit Utopian, too easy, and not real for you or your organisation. What if you could get inside the way that organisations evolve?
The Longing for Meaningful Connection
Map of Meaning
Can the Map of Meaning enable us to become more deeply human? This was the question I held as I reflected on the story a patient shared with me recently.
He described how he had always felt lacking in his ability to feel empathy for others as a young man. His gut feeling had been that this must be related to his sense of disconnectedness from his mother who had been incapable of showing unconditional love.
Meeting life where it is
Our summer newsletter opened with the sentence “‘Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous’ is the new business norm.”
So what does it take to deal with – even to thrive – in these VUCA conditions? We believe there is an ANSA to VUCA. Agility, Non-linear thinking, Self-Organisation and Awareness.
Summer Reading Selection
The promise of lazy days, quality time with friends and family, and the opportunity to delve into a good book.
Here’s a selection of what some of our colleagues at Future Considerations have been reading this summer.
Don’t be naïve about the shift to teal
Frederic Laloux’s book “Reinventing Organisations”” is inspiring. The new illustrated version puts across the key concepts with even greater simplicity. It is truly wonderful to see how many people and organisations are feeling the pull of “next-stage organisations”. The core breakthroughs of Wholeness, Evolutionary Purpose and Self-management are also simple, elegant concepts. But chainsaws and shotguns are also simple, if perhaps less elegant. Perhaps the simplicity should come with a health warning: Naïve implementation of these approaches may be harmful to your business.
When Teal meets B Corps: a match made for transformation?
What happens when you bring together leaders involved in two of the most transformational movements in business and organisations?
On the 16th May, in partnership with B-Lab UK, we hosted an evening to explore this question.
We brought together representatives from purpose-led organisations that stand for reinventing success in business, B-Corps and those who are redesigning organisations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness and are characterised by the 3 principles of self-management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose, often referred to as “Teal” organisations as first outlined in Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organisations.
Sustainable Development Goals – what can Gen Y & Z do?
17 Goals were ratified by 193 countries last December. 17 Goals that have the ability to change our world. 17 Goals that will affect us all. Globally.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a guiding light for us here at Future Considerations. We believe that they hold the key to so much that can be evolved for the better: in Leadership, in our Organisations and for Society as a whole. So you can understand our excitement when we were invited to facilitate the Youth Engagement Breakout Session on 25th April at the UKSSD Conference.
Personal reflection on Future Considerations’ journey with Holacracy
Illustrations courtesy of Ali Warner
In April this year, Future Considerations moved to Holacracy as our organisational operating system.
I wanted to share some initial reflections on this journey for the sake of learning among our community of readers – both those familiar with Holacracy and those trying to redesign their organisations in other ways to bring about agility, innovation and purposefulness, and to unleash the energy and “wholeness” of their people.
What does Brexit tell us about Politics, Systemic Complexity and Leadership?
The days of national economies are basically gone. It’s debatable how controllable they ever were. We live in a world of interconnected financial systems, global trade and transnational corporations. Of course, no politician will readily admit that they have almost no control over the economy. And I’m talking about the national politicians of most countries.
Meaning… A simple antidote to organisational change fatigue?
Fact. Organisations need to be adaptable, and resilient to change, in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world. However, despite best efforts to plan and manage change thoughtfully, 70% of organisational transformation efforts fail, often caused by change fatigue. For all our theories of change and expertise on organisational change, why is this change fatigue happening?
Organisational restructures are a waste of time
“How can we successfully restructure our organisations to meet 21st century needs?”
It appears this is the question predominant for the majority of HR & Business leaders globally at present. 92%* actually.
Often restructures are undertaken in order to fix some perceived problem however by the time they have been analysed, planned and implemented the problems have changed. We are in VUCA times: increasing Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity and without the context and understanding of psycho-social perspectives, the majority of organisational restructures will not succeed.
Why should anyone care about “Teal”?
Austin Reed. BHS. The world changes. Companies that don’t change slump and die.
What’s special about the changes of today? There’s an acronym for everything and the one for this is VUCA.
Volatility, Unpredictability, Complexity, Ambiguity.
It’s six years since IBM’s survey of 1500 top CEO’s yielded that 65% cited unpredictability as their number one concern.
Where does spirituality meet leadership?
There’s a crisis in many modern organisations: Who are they serving? What is their essence? How should they operate?
This week reveals the most shocking analysis of how a major ‘public service’, South Yorkshire police, not only systematically covered up, for 27 years, its culpability in the deaths of 96 football fans, but how it brazenly and knowingly set up innocent others as the causes of the tragedy at Hillsborough stadium.
Future Considerations adopts Holacracy
Future Considerations adopts Holacracy
Fresh from a 2 day training workshop with the lovely Nick & Sally from Evolving Organisations, we’re delighted to announce that Future Considerations has adopted Holacracy.
We’ve always been committed to discovering the models of leadership and organisation that are most fit-for-purpose in the volatile times in which we live. And to practise them on ourselves.
Reinventing Leadership Development
Gallup research shows that, worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs. The statistic is shocking and means more than three-quarters of employees are wasting their time, energy, and their organisation’s resources. How can we mobilize the creativity and collective intelligence in our organisations to turn this around?
For a challenge this massive, we need more than yesterday’s mindsets and leadership development approaches.
Future Considerations turns 15
I am writing this on Future Considerations’ 15th birthday (February 2015). It’s quite a milestone for any organisation – and also for me personally, as I have journeyed (personally & professionally) with Future Considerations since its early days.
At our annual gathering in December, Bill Torbert shared his model of the successive Action Logics that organisations typically develop through. Just as many believe that children, leaders, and societies evolve through developmental stages, so do organisations. Frederic Laloux provides an excellent summary of these stages in Reinventing Organisations (read more here). As we explored Torbert’s theory, a reflection on our own path over the past 15 years seemed to validate it.
Georgian song & leadership: more related than we think.
For those familiar with the work of Barry Oshry, the North American systems theorist who has dedicated his life to uncovering the limiting patterns that exist within organisations & their leaders, the words Top, Middle & Bottom may have a particular extra meaning or significance. But have you considered their relationship to UNESCO Cultural Heritage Georgian Polyphonic singing?
Conscious Business Collaboration
It’s heart-warming to acknowledge that conscious business offshoots are alive, well and flourishing in the UK.
In the last 10 years I have had the privilege to work with many organisations and initiatives promoting more conscious forms of business. These have included the B Team, WBCSD, World Blu, Breakthrough Capitalism, Future 500, Sustainable Brands and 1% for the Planet. But what more could be done, if these organisations had the opportunity to collaborate together?
So what’s this “Teal” organisations thing?
There has been some major buzz generating about “Teal” organisations. It started with Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations and has been amplified by other conversations. One of the example organisations, the Dutch healthcare company Buurtzorg, has particularly inspired people in Europe, and its founder/CEO Jos de Blok is a regular speaker on the topic. Further boost to the volume has come from the skeptical media attention for Zappos. But then that is to be expected with a high profile organisation trying something new. And while Laloux’s book is a brilliant start, it can be only that, and if we are to make good use of the opening he is creating, we had better understand what else is required on the journey to teal organising.
More than a mountain to climb
In April I will be climbing Mount Kenya. It is almost 5,000m high (as high as Base Camp Everest), and will take me 5 days to summit the mountain and get back down. I’ll walk in temperatures ranging from 30c to -20c and, if I’m unlucky, potentially face the perils of mountain sickness.
I will walk for up to 8 hours a day on some days and on the last day will wake up at 2am to reach the summit by sunrise. And that’s only the beginning of my challenge….
Is Barry Oshry’s Systems Thinking Still Relevant at the Teal level?
A significant number of leaders we meet are interested in a new way of organising: one that is centred on a larger and more compelling sense of purpose than just meeting the numbers, which liberates human potential and treats people as whole human beings not just human resources.
We partner with these leaders to steward responsibly and practically this transition in their own organisation and our work spans a number of areas including Barry Oshry’s Systemic Frameworks and applying the insights from the work of Frederic Laloux and his best-selling management book “Reinventing Organizations”.
Are Teal Organizations naturally sustainable?
During our research earlier this year, we identified two key drivers that limit the progression of organisations to address the global sustainability challenges.
A lack of a clear definition of what sustainability means and a strategic approach.
And a predominant organisational paradigm which “separates mind and body, subject and object, culture and nature, thoughts and things, values and facts, spirit and matter, human and nonhuman” (Wilber 1995, 4). This dualistic and reductionist approach overlooks the complexity of the sustainability challenge.
The quality of Attention in a virtual world: MOOC MITx U.Lab
Collective intelligence is very powerful face to face, but I believe we are at the edge of making it work in very interesting ways virtually. And this opens up new possibilities for collective leadership practices at many scales. The internet is making a huge amount possible in terms of day to day global connectivity. But it is where we are coming from and the quality of attention we bring to this connectivity that really matters.
Leading from the Heart: the field of collective intelligence
Image courtesy of HeartMath.org
What does it take to lead from our full potential in these challenging times? Humanity faces a whole series of highly dynamic and interconnected challenges: social, economic and ecological. Many of the systems we depend upon are in crisis. And this is being played out on many scales simultaneously. Yes it is an enormous challenge. But it is also a tremendous opportunity and a call to continually develop new leadership capacities.
Mindful Nation UK Report
“Today is a turning point for the global view of the value of Mindfulness in our modern lives.”
After a year of intensive research by a committed group of mindfulness practitioners, teachers, leaders and policy makers, the final report from the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) and the Mindfulness Initiative released the “Mindful Nation UK” report at British Parliament.