In class yesterday, we discussed diversity and redundancy, and how these two factors drive the potential for organizations to emerge during a time when leadership is arguably in a crisis. In an unstable world where we are surrounding by organizations that are not meeting the needs of its people, how do we correct this crisis? Libya, Egypt, Russia, and Turkey are all examples of how diversity AND redundancy within a society without leadership to draw these two forces together creates chaos and instability. These complex environments have challenged our current styles of leadership. Consequently, the question arises as to how do we lead such complex systems?
What is a complex system?
Kowch, (2013c in press) explains complex systems as holistic. Big in nature, these systems are cyclical and grow-minded. Networks are formed with short-range connections between actors who change over time (Cilliers, 1998). Thinking is growth-minded looking beyond the micro level of the organization (Kowch, 2013c in press). As contemporary educational systems – and other organizations – identify themselves as complex organizations, a need for the system to evolve will occur.
Transformation of a complex system that can respond crises and unanticipated challenges will require more than to just merely change. The system, and its leader, will need to emerge. Emergence occurs when the processes, structures and practices of an organization improves the functionality and adaptability of the system to respond to tense environments (Kowch, 2013b in press).
For a system to emerge, diversity and redundancy are essential. Diversity within a network is characterized by alternative perspective, representations, and interpretations – different epistemologies. Diversity offers the potential for groups to do better work because it can challenge, and add, to knowledge building (Kowch, 2013b in press).
Redundancy is when skill sets amongst people overlap with each other, allowing work to continue in a person’s absence (Kowch, 2013b in press). Specialization is an element of success to this dynamic, as well as the ability to organize interests as networks (G. D’Aoust, Searching for a new leadership discussion, July 8, 2013). However, redundancy is not replication or overspecialization.
In a complex organization where diversity and redundancy are evident, the potential for emergence is created. However, without these, transformation cannot occur; the organization can change, but it cannot transform. In fact, the more diversity the system has, the more redundancy will be present, which will help the organization to emerge. When these to elements are present, the organization’s learning network emerges. In such a system, the organization can generate information internally, support its value system, and organize and manage complex tasks; this organization now has the ability to rise above self-interest and self organize (Kowch, 2013b in press)
How does an effective leader lead this transformation?
Strong leadership in such a complex organization must be able to recognize the talent and potential on the team. Focusing on the common underlying value that links all team members together, the leader must create the conditions for this diversity and redundancy to emerge, and then draw these two facets together in order for the transformation to occur. The leader will need to navigate the interpersonal, intergroup, and within-group relationships. When the sentiment of feeling overwhelmed unveils, the focus should be placed on the macro and meso factors, and ask why?
Cilliers, P. (1998). Complexity and postmodernism: Understanding complex systems. New York, NY: Routledge.
Kowch, E. G. (2013a, July 8). Searching for a new leadership. Leadership and technology. Lecture conducted from the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.
Kowch, E. G. (2013b in press). Towards leading diverse, adaptable and “smarter” organizations that learn. International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, 3, x, 114-132. Cambridge, MA: Inderscience Publishers.
Kowch, E. G. (2013c in press). Whither thee, Educational Technology? A Suggestion to extend educational technology epistemology for emerging leaders. Tech Trends Special Edition (Fall, 2013).