How Do We Deal with Our Own Limitations?

By: Hugo Lourenco

Understanding of how we deal with our own limitations informs the way we respond to change. Work around Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) is dedicated to studying the operational model of nature, with particular emphasis on the joining of simple components giving rise to high-value products until they are able to promote self-replication. But organizations are strongly conditioned to demand solutions and using the same old practices won’t result in the outcomes we are looking for. We have to find complex solutions derived from the simpler ones to build products that can last a decade of success.

Using the CAS approach demands we search for and discover solutions based on simplicity, diversity and self-organization and to follow their evolution to complex and adaptive systems. The human factor, with the inherent difficulties of communication, trust, and task specialization, are an integral part of the equation, but this approach, which is not always well understood and therefore generates suspicion, requires continuous practices to respond to the pressure of having results in a volatile and unstable environment.

One of the major constraints in the development of these practices is the poor understanding of how we deal with our physical limitations.

Our energy-consuming brain is forced to have saving mechanisms that create cognitive bias: the way we deal with the excess of information (few remember the myriad of events we encounter on the way home because it is done in automatic mode), the little meaning we give them by focusing on those that have more meaning but not necessarily the best, and the constant need to make quick decisions to face the world. We can have challenges in promoting, accepting and developing trust in the environment that surrounds our daily lives. The forms of communication we use to express ourselves (written, verbal or and gestures) are subject to interpretation and do not always have clarity.

To account for these difficulties in our daily work needs continuous action validated by five important points:

1 Quality. Quality pays for itself. Constant collective motivation in the search for solutions that meet the company’s needs from this apparent disorder results in a coherent set of features capable of generating quality outcomes.

2 Time. Time is money. If our analytical capability runs out, the solution should be found in timeboxed meetings with clear goals. Restricting or prolonging the discussion of ideas to preconceived goals or indefinite concepts leads to a reduction in quality.

3 Network. It is not enough to want, it is necessary to have. Generating complexity from simplicity is associated with the concept of interdependence. Work supported through the network guarantees high performance teams because everyone feels important and each one is stimulated and understood.

4 Make sense. Make sense of the environment. Organizational and deductive capacity leads us to constantly seek meaning in decisions. The search for the identity of the group we are in, a continuous identification of cues (perceptions of the environment) and a permanent retrospective analysis drive us to always follow a path, where greater participation in demand provides a more accurate answer.

5 Plan. Planning is everything, planning is a waste of time. Visualization is essential in understanding a problem; playing chess without a board is possible, but understanding the game is impossible. The permanent construction of strategic planning in decision making gives a boost in making sense in the company and reduces the risk of poor decision making.

As in nature we will never know if a decision is correct if we do not test it, but since we cannot test all solutions, the more it makes sense to those involved, the less likely it is to be incorrect and consequently the better the outcome.

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