A complex vision

I am immersing myself in complexity, that is, the science of complexity. Reading Quinn Patton’s book on developmental evaluation made me understand why we are having such a difficult time measuring the impact of our work – teaching people to act more like leaders, in the context they work in, is not about ‘do this and then that will happen. I am learning about Mt Fuji solution and getting at the right size for a shovel, rugged landscapes and why diversity is important to find the best solutions, and dancing landscape which is about arriving at a conclusion after much data gathering and analysis to find out that everything has changed in the meantime.  To explain all this is complicated (not complex). I have to do a lot more reading and watching before I can do this better.

I spent several hours of our long weekend watching a lecture series, starring the professor of my Model Thinking course. If only a very small percentage of the 40,000 Coursera participants (in Model Thinking) bought the video set, at 50 dollars apiece, then the business model of these free courses becomes obvious. I liked my professor and I am more likely to buy his publications than those of hundreds of others.

The video course goes over some territory that is already familiar but there was plenty of new stuff: the explore-exploit distinction that gave me some ideas for our Learning Organization task team at work, or the notion of complexity as created by a series of dials: by increasing diversity, connectedness, interdependence and adaptability you get complexity, but if you increase these too much you get chaos. And why would we want complexity? Because it allows for emergence – for us emergence is about innovations, new stuff, new connections, new ideas; and I learned that for slime molds emergence means survival.

I am doing all this exploring and thinking in preparation of my new role at work of leading a team to articulate a view point and curating knowledge about leadership. So many people have already done that elsewhere, where to start?

I impulsively booked a weekend, next week, at an immense old and creaky hotel in the White Mountains – it is ski weekend time, even though I have one leg in an orthopedic boot and a recovering hand fracture on the other side. I also haven’t skied for 6 years. Whether I will actually put on (cross country) skis or remains to be seen. I would have to ski with my hand splinted which makes it hard to put on a glove, but un-splinted is a little too risky, since falling is rather likely.  Maybe I will simply sit by the fire inside, with my embroidery, knitting, and a stack of books, learning more about complexity.

We watched Obama channel MLK and share his vision for American – something he has been trying to work towards for the last 4 years, as countless others claimed to have worked for. The reason none of them can realize the vision is, indeed, because of the complexity of our world – if the slime molds are complex, imagine the United States of America.

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