Simon Terry

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5 Big Shifts – Chaos is Human

When you connect many people, you are reminded of a very human form of chaos. Things just cease to happen in the orderly way that you might expect. It is human nature:

  • to seek purpose,
  • to connect and share knowledge with others
  • to seek to make a difference.

Once we are connected, these natural human needs begin to take over reshaping efforts to structure relationships. 

Efforts to Control Chaos are Failing

So many of the ideologies and management approaches of human history have been efforts to control and shape these three natural human behaviours. They have been concerned to restrict their potential to drive change and create chaos. These ideologies rely on asymmetries of power and information to enforce their approaches.

Still solving problems of a pre-modern era, we still try to work against the grain of human behaviour:  

  • We seek to structure out the mess of human communication through silos, tools, meetings, formats which leads to a focus on the process over the conversation
  • We define teams, roles, hierarchies, discretion and decision rights with exacting detail down to the exact titles people can use to describe themselves and the social indicators in each role.
  • We specific processes in exacting detail in the hope that we can dictate exactly how that process will be best executed by each person in every case without discretion
  • We motivate people with top-down orders, objectives, rules, measurement, financial incentives and threats of exclusion  

Complexity, uncertainty and disruption are on the rise despite our best efforts. These techniques are increasingly seen to stifle innovation, to waste human potential and to frustrate motivation of vital talent.

Working with the Chaos

Human nature is not changing any time soon. Our technologies will continue to enhance our connection and opportunities for expression and collaboration. The potential for failure of traditional techniques will worsen with time.  

We need to work with human nature. Working with our human nature requires us to accept some fundamental shifts: 

  • Knowing to Learning:  We need to move from a view that experts have the stock of knowledge that they require. The model of knowing everything never worked. We need to embrace knowledge as a flow, constantly being enhanced, made relevant again and a part of a constant exercise of learning. 
  • Motivating to Inspiring: We need to engage around purpose and help people to see how they realise their goals and potential as part of collective activities and group goals.
  • Supervising to Enabling: Build people’s capability for more complex tasks rather than trying to simplify the tasks to make supervision, direction and measurement easier. Engage people in developing the ability to produce better outcomes that take them where they want to go.
  • Controlling to Engaging:  The role of leaders is not to direct but to shape the conversations to provide context for good decisions and ensure that all the stakeholders are appropriately engaged. Leaders also help the community agree the level of urgency for change and overcome change and collaboration barriers.
  • Inside-out to Outside-in: Understand the environment, community customer and other stakeholder views as you form your own. Create an organisation and people that engage with their communities. Be responsive.

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