The capacities needed to make appropriate changes by responding to context.
The world is a complex place. The situations we find ourselves in are increasingly complex, for a variety of reasons:
Things can change faster, because almost-instant-communication enables more 'agents' to have an effect on the situation at almost the same time and because changes in the situation can be transmitted out into the surroundings almost immediately.
Things can change more often because, as we just saw, communication technology allows more 'agents' to get involved - even ones on the other side of the world.
Things can change more significantly now that humanity has become a geological force - so that our decisions and actions can damage or unsettle or even destroy the world, rather than just a field.
To face the challenges of this growing complexity, we need to be what Patrick Beautement and Christine Broenner call 'complexity-worthy'. That is to say, we need to have the necessary capabilities available to do things differently and we need to be able to match them appropriately to the context in which we find ourselves.
First of all, then, we need to have the requisite variety of available responses to the situation. (More on this in The Law of Requisite Variety):
"This means that to engage with or to affect something, abilities must match or exceed the nature of things being affected/engaged with. If you want to change the behaviour of a class of children and all you do is shout then you are not going to get far; it needs a larger repertoire to engage effectively with the children."
Complexity-worthiness is a fairly complicated business, but one of the prerequisites that you or the system or the situation needs to have in order to be complexity-worthy is complexity-awareness. Here is a list prepared by Beautement & Broenner to explain complexity-awareness:
'Closed' Reductionist Approach
Relies on order - if necessary imposes it
Is based on objective, proven and normative analysis
Seeks to work with single, 'rational' view of the 'truth' - categorises against a fixed taxonomy
Directs - fixes purpose / assumptions, constrains
Fixes boundaries, structures and 'frames of reference'
Expects to predict through probabilities
Solves 'puzzles' - extrapolates trends from the known as 'linear' steps
Wants certainty and repeatability at the entity level, robust averages are not 'good enough'
Blames based on notions of defining 'right thing, right place, right time' in advance - punishes accordingly
Measures outcomes against plans, goals, 'end-states' and 'arbitrary', project-centric timelines
Implements solutions using own means
Presumes the 'system of interest' is owned, territorial
Risk averse, unlikely to act without the ‘right’ information. Managers do things ‘right’
'Open' Complexity-Aware Approach
Embraces 'disorder' of complex phenomena
Trusts the value of 'subjective' appreciations
Adopts contradictory viewpoints deliberately and works with diverse and changing meaning
Encourages initiative, diversity, 'degrees of freedom'
Engages in open negotiation and collaboration
Accepts unpredictability, considers possibilities
Explores 'mysteries' - imagines 'illogical' hypotheses and competes them to gain insights
Accepts individual uncertainty, but knows that patterns at collective level are reliable, repeatable
Enjoys versatility, novelty and inventiveness - engages in informal collaboration
Employs holistic understanding
Promotes enquiry and freedom, facilitates
People take responsibility and ownership
Assumes people will explore, discover, challenge
Judges based on context, sees 'failure' as 'inevitable', a way of learning / improving - self-aware
Evaluates through experience, keeps in mind timelines which are realistic given nature of change
Works with those best placed to change
Knows situations are open and unbounded
Takes risks despite uncertainty, accepts that there is no ‘right’ answer. Leaders do the ‘right’ things
There's a lot more on this in their book, but this list seems like plenty to start with. Some ideas from it that keep recurring in Triarchy Theory, Design Thinking, Ecological Thinking, Cultural Theory, Complexity Theory, International Futures Forum Thinking and Systems Thinking are: