The Way to Proficiency in Complex Environments

Esko Kilpi, writing in Medium:

In complex environments, the way to proficiency is to recombine successful elements to create new versions, some of which may thrive.

As a result, not just the user interfaces, but the operating system of work is starting to change in a radical way. The traditional industrial approach to work was to require each worker to assume a predetermined responsibility for a specific role. The new approach represents a different logic of organizing based on neither the traditional market nor a process.

I’m drawn to systems that favor emergent structures over predefined top-down structures, for the same reasons Mr. Kilpi highlights in his post. Alas, important parts of our societies are still organized around somewhat rigid top-down structures.

Top-down structures can work when domains are simple, contingencies minimal, significant changes infrequent, and one has some degree of agency over the context. That’s the opposite of many current environments. Emergence – how natural structures come about — offers us an alternative approach to designing systems that address complex, evolving environments more skillfully.

The key is clarity on the purpose(s) the system is working towards. How do you achieve clarity of purpose in situations where multiple stakeholders have conflicting interests? You need leadership with vision. Top-down in service to emergence.

Collaborative and Competitive Creativity