The foundations of what I know about complex, dynamic systems were laid when I studied to be a professional nurse in the 1980s. Today I am returning to my alma mater to present a paper at their annual alumni symposium, discussing "Engagement and Strategic Collaboration for Conscious Disruptive Healthcare". Most serious medical conditions are good examples of wicked problems, the same kind of problems which organisations and large systems encounter as a result of the complex, dynamic environment in which they reside.
The characteristics of wicked problems (Head & Alford, 2015) are:
·No definite formulation of the problem
·The problem keeps mutating
·Solutions are better or worse, not true or false
·Consequences are not finite or time-bound
·Every solution changes the system in some way
·Nothing can be exactly repeated
·A finite list of possible solutions cannot be created
·It is unique
·It is a symptom of another wicked problem
·The cause of the problem varies depending on perspective
·Solvers cannot be wrong – improvement is required.
Just a few of the issues which arise in healthcare and other industries include fragmentation, incompetence, apathy, errors, waste and disparity. All of these issues are linked in some way to change, complexity or conflict - all inevitable challenges of modern life. In this environment we cannot make confident predictions about the future. We can only acknowledge our assumptions and create experiments to test them as the future emerges. One almost certain aspect of the future is disruption. As the cross-pollination of our newest content, code, connections, machines, data and materials explodes with exponential rapidity so "radically new" is the order of the day.
In a world gaining cyclonic momentum we need a radically new depth of awareness to provide the calm in the eye of the storm. We need to create integrated business cultures which are able to provide the stability which will enable us to add true sustainable value to all our stakeholders. Conscious business cultures are characterised by
Purpose and Awareness
Egalitarianism and Character
Authentic Visionary Leadership
Sustainable Resourcing and Stakeholder Integration
Strengths-based and Deliberately Developmental People Systems
Efficient and Effective Processes and Practices
The real challenge is to integrate and weave these principles into the fabric of organisational or systemic life such that they become our culture:
The practical, social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual norms that are most commonly observable in our midst. What we do, how we interact, how we think, how we feel and what we believe and value.
Head, B.W. and Alford, J., 2015. Wicked problems: Implications for public policy and management. Administration & Society, 47(6).