Systems Leadership: Designing an Adaptive Organization Using Four Simple Rules to Thrive in a Complex World

Organizational design, change, and leadership in today’s complex and uncertain environments can lead us to assume that complex problems require complex solutions. By identifying and leveraging the inherent functions of all natural systems, we can instead find simple solutions to solve complex problems.

We start organizations because we have a vision for the future that requires the work of other people to bring it to life. If you could accomplish your vision on your own, you would. Working with other people can be difficult and relies on patience and coordination with others. It requires intellect and emotional intelligence. The effort to accomplish a vision requires every member of an organization to work collectively and in concert. So how do we achieve that level of coordination? How do we design—or redesign—an organization capable of steering toward our vision while navigating the complexities of an uncertain world?

Nature provides our greatest insights into organizational design, change, and leadership around collective action. When we look to Nature, we see numerous examples where we “borrowed” characteristics of organisms to help with human endeavors.

How do these individual creatures self-organize? How do they coordinate their collective action? It turns out that these natural systems are so successful because the individuals follow simple rules.

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