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Leading in a complex world (a collection)

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Inquiry

‘The Complexity Challenge’

By Chris Mowles

“Creating space for sitting and listening to difficult things…”

And

“Another skill I would say for a senior manager or leader is the ability to endure strong emotions – both yours and other peoples. … And to sit with the anxiety of not knowing how this is going to turn out.”

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Bringing Purpose to Life: Reflexive Thoughts and Possibilities

By Rob Warwick and Pete Burden

“In academia, and in management consulting, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on induction and deduction, as if conversation was somehow a mostly rational process. When this way of thinking suggests that we are often in a process of abduction.”

and

“We may often be tempted to seek a resolution to a paradox. To collapse awareness of paradox, and to quickly take the view of ‘job done’. In practical terms, there might be pressure to do this. But paradoxes cannot be resolved, they can only be lived. People ‘rub along’ together, and it is through the process of interacting that understanding emerges.”

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Researching ‘transformational change’

By Chris Mowles

“I suspect the research has been commissioned on the understanding that transformational change is something which senior managers choose, and can, to a degree control.”

And

“How did they understand transformation?

This last question caused the most consternation, even if they had pre-identified their own projects as transformational: most of our respondents stuttered and stumbled.”

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Doubt, uncertainty and vulnerability in leadership: using fiction to enable reflection and voice

By Rob Warwick

“In other words, to acknowledge the anxiety of strategy and policy formation that manifests itself in overly rigid controls and simplification in communication, yet to recognise the practical skill and wisdom of those on the frontline. This is not a case of either/or, but awareness of the importance of both to each other. Situations in which we find ourselves are rarely clear-cut; there are tensions and competing priorities that require an holistic understanding so as to make the next plausible choice… ”

and

“Each time I have watched the play [The Tempest] I remember feeling a sense of immediacy at this point and slight discomfort; I was no longer a viewer but a player and part of the power relations, albeit in imagination. My sense of immediacy has been arrived at from a developing relationship with the characters; I care for some, dislike others, and am puzzled by several. ”

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Digital and Face to Face Conversation: The Emerging Skill Set

By Paul Levy

“Conversation doesn’t happen when two people just advocate. Advocating is what we do when we tell, when we assert, when we ‘put out.’ The digital realm is designed for us to mostly advocate. We press enter and our text is advocated. We send a photo and we are pushing that photo at someone. Emails, tweets, smileys and likes are all acts of putting out, of advocating. It’s all push.”

and

“Conversation builds out of the raw material of shared inquiry. Occasionally we may advocate, but even then , we do that in order to serve and enhance the quality of the conversation. Sometimes we put out, we advocate, especially when inquiry helps us reach more or less temporary conclusions about something. In a high quality conversation, that occasional advocacy fuels further inquiry.”

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Creating conditions so that all voices can be heard

By Rowena Davis

“What helps us open to differences?

So how do we interrupt or at least catch our automatic Flight/Fight response before it gets entrenched and costs us dearly? From many perspectives – including Systems-Centered Theory, complex responsive processes, dialogue and Positive Psychology – how we talk to each other (and ourselves) is key.”

And

“Part of opening up to difference involves slowing down enough so that our autonomic response is interrupted sooner rather than later. For facilitators, it means a commitment to notice and work with our own triggers around difference, so we can be more open to them. For leaders in organisations and in communities, it means an awareness that this is not easy and that we need to shift behaviours.”

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10 much-needed shifts in the way we think and talk about leadership

By Chris Rodgers

“Leadership would be recognized as an emergent property of people interacting together, not as an elite practice confined to those at the top of organizations (and of society more generally).”

And

“The search for, and expectancy of, certainty and predictability would have been replaced by the valuing and practice of curiosity.”

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Reframing accountability in organizational practice

By Chris Rodgers:

“Whatever happens in practice, then, (whether ‘good, ‘bad’, or ‘indifferent’) is not determined by formally designed structures and accountability systems. It emerges instead from the widespread interplay of myriad local interactions.”

and

“It’s in the detail of people’s moment-to-moment exchanges that organization is enacted and ‘outcomes’ emerge. Managers would therefore do well to direct their attention towards the quality of people’s participation in this ongoing interactional process.”

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Conscious business — impact and implications for HR and OD

By Pete Burden and Rob Warwick

“There are many things we can do. These include:

  • noticing and challenging our habits of speech
  • learning to sense and understand our feelings more accurately
  • learning to inquire not just advocate
  • reaching out to new and different types of people who will have challenging conversations with us
  • modelling different ways to work with power.”

and

“Conscious Business is an invitation to inquire”.

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