Complexity — On The Rise !     Do You Have the Right Leaders?

Complexity — On The Rise ! Do You Have the Right Leaders?

Complexity has emerged as a major topic and buzz word in organizations over the last 20 years. Yet it has only recently taken center stage in the consciousness of organizational leaders. In IBM’s 2010 & 2012 Global CEO Surveys, an ‘unprecedented level of interconnection and interdependency of trends was identified  (interviews with over 1,700 CEOs from across the globe). They reported the rapid escalation of complexity is the biggest challenge confronting’ their organizations and it was ‘equally clear that their enterprises are not equipped to cope effectively with this complexity’. Even more challenging was the finding that 79% of the CEOs interviewed believed that there was even greater complexity ahead. In this environment the critical question is, Who is going to lead our organizations and the world in the face of this expanding complex reality? Fortunately, the IBM survey detected a spot of light at the end of the tunnel—at least for some organizations. A subset of the organizations who took part in the survey were thriving in complexity and doing well despite increasing uncertainty and ambiguity. The evidence could be found in their financial outcomes—their revenue growth during the recent economic crisis was 6 times higher than the rest of the sample. What differentiated these organizations from the others who fell behind? Their effective leaders had confidence in their capabilities to prosper from complexity and were ‘comfortable with and committed to ongoing experimentation’. In other words, the decision-makers were not undone by uncertainty and fast-paced change. Rather they did their best work as complexity increased and were excited by the super-challenges because they knew they had enough untapped potential to succeed. They also had the nerve to really support innovation by creating an atmosphere that encourages “wild” ideas and expects inevitable failures along the way to something big.

What can at-risk organizations change to become one of those that grows and prospers under the pressure of rising complexity and competition?  They must learn how to differentiate:

(1) Those who are capable of thriving in complexity and rapid change from those who will derail, and

(2) True innovation from just another a 20-degree shift from existing models.

Success within rising complexity and the creation of something radically new are both products of high-ability thinking. The key: know how to effectively identify and support those exceptional individuals who have what it takes to go farther and faster into the future.

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