and work with paradox and tension.
Do not shy away from them as if they were unnatural
Because the behavior of a CAS emerges from the interaction among agents, and because of nonlinear effects, weird stuff seems to happen. Of course, it is only weird because we do not yet have a way to understand it.
In a CAS, creativity and
innovation have the best chance to emerge precisely at the point of greatest tension and
apparent irreconcilable differences. Rather than smoothing over these differences
the typical leadership intuition from the machine and military metaphors we should
focus on them and seek a new way forward.
An organization in which
tension and stresses are quickly smoothed over or even denied is one that isnt
learning or adapting very efficiently. Consider an organization embroiled in internal
conflict over some kind of change, in which one group wants radical change and the other
is holding steadfastly to the status quo. There may be a temptation for leaders to
compromise, try to deliver to both groups, or prematurely stand by one position while
discounting the other. How might you work with paradox and tension in this case? The
approach one leader took was to mix the two warring factions (the radical
change people and the status quo people) into a single group and give
them the task of finding a radical way to hold on to the status quo. This is a
paradox; it makes no sense according to the prevailing mental models.
However, working on it placed
the group at the edge of chaos and increased the likelihood that creative approaches would
emerge. Here are some other paradoxical questions to consider. Can you think of
others that are relevant to your context?
Another way to uncover paradox
is to ask wicked questions. These are questions that have no obvious answers,
but expose our assumptions. For example, in an organization that was trying to build a
more-enabled environment, one leader asked, Are we really ready to put
responsibility for the work on the shoulders of the people who do the work? Perhaps
you can sense the discomfort in such a question. But challenging the sacred cows is an
activity that can put you at the edge of chaos, and begin to reveal the hidden
All Components of Edgeware
Principles Copyright © 2000, Curt