Everyone knows the real world is complex. And everyone knows the digital era has created a level of uncertainty, disruption and possibility that has never been seen before. And yet management culture embedded in some of the world’s largest companies merely serves to artificially simplify the real world and consequently limit business potential. However this does not have to be the case. The successful could be even more so. The companies currently breeding a better dinosaur while ignoring the oncoming comet could still evolve.
Simple ideas can transform the world, but being able to navigate complexity to execute on them is a critical success factor which many large companies struggle with. This article is based on work with a number of leading companies where the common success factor has been self-disrupting by shifting culture, capability and intent toward Next Practice. Here, “next” works on two levels: first, referring to the kind of strategy and management practices which are designed from the ground up to work in the digital age (everybody knows digital is changing everything, but many “best practices” in business were established before global information connectivity), and second, ways of thinking and working which help leaders and teams not only consider what has worked in the past (“best”), but what could work better now (“next”).
One of the key leadership characteristics of creative disruptors and digital leaders is that they are complexity fluent; that is, they are adept at understanding and engaging in real world complexity. Leaders and managers shouldn’t try to reduce or simplify complexity; rather, they should embrace it head on.