Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…
The world is becoming more complex. Complexity is impacting our decision-making capability and organisations that do not find a way to negotiate this complexity will, in all likelihood, fail. Sound like a familiar message? The current feeling towards complexity is captured in the following quote:
The increase in differentiation and specialization has produced systems in which the problem solving capacity (dealing with technological innovation, organizational and technical complexities, re-allocation of scarce resources) of governments, central coordinating agencies or other institutions are disaggregated in a collection of subsystems with limited tasks, competences and resources, and where the relatively independent participants possess different bits of information, represent different interests and pursue separate, potentially conflicting courses of action. The problems we are confronted with cut across the boundaries of separate authorities and functional jurisdictions. These problems are the more pressing in a period in which all Western industrial countries are confronted with an economic recession and therefore. a shortage in means to finance the complex structures on which our societies are build. We have to consider the necessity of doing away with organizational inefficiencies to reorganize our complex systems so that they will with less costs at least maintain the same output. If we want to maintain our highly devel0ped health care, welfare, educational and other systems we have to realize that we must find means to increase interorganization~ coordination~ to increase effectiveness and efficiency, as we can not any l0nger permit ourselves to allocate unlimited amounts of public money to these systems.
The tone of that quote reverberates across findings from a multitude of today’s economic and organisational theorists/observers/advisors. So, it might surprise you to find out that this was researched and written almost 35 years ago (van Gils, 1979, The organisation of co-operation). Compare it to the findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit (2006) or Deloitte’s Shift Index (2009 and 2011) and it seems that we are saying exactly the same thing, just at a different time and space (perhaps history is fractal after all).
The general awareness of organisational complexity has been there for a long time. However, our individual awareness, well there, perhaps, is the problem. Organisations have always had to deal with the complexities brought about by the acceleration of innovation and technology advancement (both feeding off each other, after all what is technology but an artefact of human capability); they adapt or they cease to exist, as has frequently been the case. Each generation has its own view of complexity, of environmental accelerants that bring new pressures to bear upon Enterprise and each view is relative to the individual’s education, experience, culture, history, experience etc.
Some (individuals and organisations) will find a space where, regardless of advancing years, they can adapt, embracing change and keeping pace with the environment (even periods of punctuated equilibrium), becoming personally resilient and maintaining their relevance. Other will be less adaptive, rooted in their ‘prime’ time, a space when their learning and experience (their relevance) peaked. Here they find comfort in nostalgia, a time where they were most relevant, but their waking-sleep blinds them to their inevitable demise; punctuated equilibrium becomes the only option, but it is often too frightening an event to contemplate and these people, these organisations, find themselves becoming frustrated with their irrelevance and many will just give up.
We live in an accelerating, more connected, world. We always have. We will either adapt or become irrelevant.
Hmmm…Keep pace or become irrelevant (the same goes whether speaking of the development of individuals or organisations), has anything really changed?