Irreducible complexity: The Force in organisational life

A photoshopped images of a large stack of tortoises on each others’ backs

We want the world to be manageable, organisational life to be simple…

…so we can apply ‘best practices’. Or even complicated – so we can simulate, model, and plan. We want this so bad, we’re prepared to break everything that’s living and special about organisations to make it true.

But organisations are truly complex and unpredictable. There are:

·no ‘non player characters’, people all have a life of their own

·no closed-off worlds; everything can be impacted by a bigger system (why we say ‘VUCA’)

·no guarantees that we can all agree on one version of reality

We often say ‘the map is not the territory’. The organisational Jedi understands that ‘reality’ is just what pushes back and shows us that our maps are not it.

The world is fundamentally uncertain – nebulous, impossible to completely pin down. We see patterns in that messiness, and act as is they were real. These patterns are just more or less useful: our world is made up of the patterns we see or agree on.

So ‘complexity’ is dependent on context, framing, perspective, knowledge, intent.

The Jedi works to get enough shared agreement about these patterns to help us achieve our intent.

>> Where have you seen people agree on a reality that turned out to be misleading?


One thought on “Irreducible complexity: The Force in organisational life

  1. This is part 11 of my series on The Force in organisational life. The rest can be accessed here:

    – Parts 1-4 (the purpose of the system is what it does, the hidden essential organisatioanal logic, the inevitability of the shaping of culture by leaders and systems, and the importance of ‘Worlds’)
    – and on Medium
    – WordPress
    – Part 5 – how dominant/other patterns create system fragility
    – Part 6 – the dark side of human responses
    – part 7 – structural coupling
    – part 8 – control, framing, paradigms, politics, self-knowledge, and lust for power!
    – parts 5-8
    – on linkedin:
    – on medium:
    – on wordpress:
    – part 9 – fit and stretch of work to people
    – part 10 – Human needs and the impact of trauma, shame, and referred pain


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