My news feed is filled with articles that provide easy answers. Do these headlines sound familiar?
Unfortunately, catchy headlines work! I often delve into these articles only to be disappointed with their content. I fear that this editorial trend is creating a culture of over-simplified solutions based on pop-culture principles. The core problem with catchy headlines is that most of the promised solutions trivialize complexity.
In his seminal book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge reminds us that the complexity of our daily interactions is increasing. As a result, he proposes that effectiveness requires that we identify the structures which underlie complex situations. This is called systems thinking and requires us to evaluate how different parts interrelate over time and how they relate to other systems. For example, disciplining an employee for tardiness is ineffective unless it considers related factors such as the impact of their special-needs child or an addiction problem. Addressing an issue like this requires that we evaluate the individuals’ system.
These questions may help you as you seek to identify and assess the systems which are at work in your complex world.
I was tempted to title this blog, “The one thing your MBA didn’t teach you”, but I had to follow my own advice! Successful people are able to synthesize complexity and that cannot be accomplished in ‘seven steps’ or by doing ‘three things’.
Jeff Suderman is a professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman
Hughes, R., & Beatty, K. (2005). Becoming a strategic leader your role in your organization’s enduring success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.