Globalisation, digitalisation and the fourth industrial revolution are just some of the key drivers of ever increasing complexity at the workplace. The variety of customer demands is unintelligible. Products and services are ever more interdependent. The next turn of the market is impossible to foresee.

If you look at the foundations these same workplaces are built on, you almost inevitably find a basic operating model that imposes some kind of order on this complex world. Standards, processes and definitions allow for a predictable and  manageable environment. More than that, they are the foothold for efficiency, scaleability and industrialisation. And those in turn are the source of a profitable business.

In the complex domain, nothing happens the same way twice except by accident.

(Dave Snowden, Cognitive Edge)

At first, that sounds quite convincing. But with increasing complexity it becomes more and more difficult to connect the ordered and the complex domain. The result are the exponential increase of bureaucracy, unrealistic forecasts and objectives, and over-rigid constraints that make it impossible for people to get their job done. You are supposed to explain a product to customers, but the information you have constantly lags behind what customers need to know. You are supposed to hand in your annual budget, but it depends on so many decisions that other people have yet to take. And some of those decisions, in turn, might depend on the kind of budget you hand in. As performance goes down, cynicism spreads amongst staff.

We believe that the appropriate way of working in a complex enviroment, the appropriate tools, and the appropriate mindset, are further away from the present mainstream than many of us believe. But no worry, it is something you can learn! On the basis of Cognitive Edge’s Cynefin Framework, we have developed the Amber Compass, a set of principles, practices and tools to help people at all levels of the organisation master this onslaught of complexity. Have a look at our current model!

We have also developed a host of didactical material for teaching and coaching complexity savvyness. Games, worksheets, case studies and discussion papers can be used to build the right approach to the right focus. One of our recent examples are the Cynefin Playing Cards. You can get a taste in our public training – but we’re offering customised versions for inhouse programs as well.

I very much liked to participate together with adults and see the difference between my way of thinking and theirs. I managed to follow the argument, and I had lots of fun. I adore the first part on understanding the difference between complex and ordered. I’m looking forward to replaying the game at Play14 Milano!