When dealing with accelerated change, chronic uncertainty and rampant complexity, leaders need to role model not getting caught in silo based thinking or decision making. They also should not tolerate it when others do it. Instead, they need to make important choices.
David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone wrote an excellent article on this subject called “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making” in the November 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review. As they explain, “As in the other contexts, leaders face several challenges in the complex domain. Of primary concern is the temptation to fall back into traditional command-and-control management styles - to demand fail-safe business plans with defined outcomes. Leaders who don’t recognize that a complex domain requires a more experimental mode of management may become impatient when they don’t seem to be achieving the results they were aiming for. They may also find it difficult to tolerate failure, which is an essential aspect of experimental understanding. If they try to over control the organization, they will preempt the opportunity for informative patterns to emerge. Leaders who try to impose order in a complex context will fail, but those who set the stage, step back a bit, allow patterns to emerge, and determine which ones are desirable will succeed. They will discern many opportunities for innovation, creativity, and new business models.”
One element of these choices is create and maintain a learning culture. Given the recruitment and retention challenges in companies across the country at this time period, a learning culture creates the capacity to promote from within and to create spaces where people can gather, share and expand their perspective about what is happening and how to proceed.
If we as leader reinforce and support mono-cultures of the mind, we are bound to repeat the same problems over and over. There are many paths to innovation, creativity and effective action. Expanding the capacity of people to think and learn is crucial to our success.