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The Seven Dragons of Complexity: Taming the Mindsets that thwart our embrace of a VUCA world

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Event description

When people tell you to “think outside the box,” they don’t tell you where the box ends and the future begins. That is why we find ourselves so often trapped in our own blind spots and assumptions, driven by our ordinary worldviews.  The nonlinear sciences—complexity and chaos, as well as Integral theory—shine a light on those dark corners of reality and the habits of mind that keep us stuck. In ancient times, maps of the world would show sea monsters and dragons outside the bounds of the known world. That’s why in this program we call such mind-blowing (and habitually intractable) realities “dragons.” In this series, the Human Systems Dynamics Institute (HSD) and The Collective Edge (TCE) join forces to introduce a new form of deliberate sensemaking to:

  • Explain the nature of complex systems and dynamical change
  • Reveal the paradoxes that live in this new paradigm, and the habitual predict and plan mindsets that attempt to apply an outdated view to such systems, leading to them appearing intractable
  • Share tools and practices from the sense and respond worldview to help you adapt, even when you can’t predict or control, uncovering a barely sufficient understanding, enough to inform action
  • Create a deliberate sensemaking cohort container to help you connect with ideas and people that will sustain you and your clients through the turbulent future
    Journey of the Program

    In nine two-hour sessions, we will introduce the dynamics of complex adaptive systems, interlocking disciplines that help us shift patterns in systems, and apply these to our wicked problems. In parallel, we will examine the constraints that are embedded within a predict and plan worldview that make dealing with complexity appear intractable, and we will introduce a new worldview, known as sense and respond, driven by an inquiry mindset, an iterative process, and a deliberate sensemaking approach. You will experience the power and possibility of this complexity-ready worldview through applying inquiry, adaptive action and collective sensemaking to your own and others’ wicked issues. We start by defining the difference between simple systems and complex adaptive systems. 

    You will practice using models and methods to see, understand, and influence problematic patterns in emergent complexity. You will find ways to “slay” the seven dragons of complexity, with an introduction to begin and integration to complete. Here are the topics of each session:

    1. Introduction – What is this? Why this? Why now? HSD, Complexity, Integral, Sensemaking (Oct 10th)
    2. Precision Isn’t Accuracy – When does more data multiply problems instead of giving solutions? (Oct 17th)
    3. Cause Isn’t a Vector – Yes, stuff happens!  Where does it come from and what can you do about it? (Oct 24th)
    4. Time Isn’t a Line – What does it mean to think and act at the speed of change? Or How can the here-and-now generate the there-and-then of the future? (Oct 31st)
    5. Difference Isn’t a Problem – How do you complete the circuit and harvest the energy in difference? (Nov 7th)
    6. A Description Isn’t an Explanation – It isn’t enough to know WHAT happens, when you know HOW, you have options for action. (Nov 14th)
    7. The Solution Isn’t Always the Point – So, what does success look like for wicked issues that will never be solved? (Nov 21st)
    8. Vision Doesn’t Create Change – What is the power of a vision in a future you don’t predict or control? (Dec 5th)
    9. Integration session – What is your successful future in the complex world of today and the emerging world of tomorrow? (Dec 12th)
    Who Would Benefit from Attending
    • Those responsible for organizational change initiatives, such as HR or OD professionals, Agile organizational coaches, and other transformation leaders
    • Leaders, managers and others responsible for solving intractable issues in their organizations or in their communities
    • Writers, bloggers and researchers who work in the area of complexity
    • Anyone who feels trapped in chaos and uncertainty will benefit from this program
      Outcomes from Your Participation
      • Be able to distinguish four types of complexity: Detail complexity, Non-linear complexity, Uncertainty complexity, and Pattern complexity.
      • Understand and apply the pattern logic of Containers-Differences-Exchanges (CDEs) as the change parameters available in all complex adaptive systems.
      • Learn and apply the interlocking set of disciplines in deliberate sensemaking that help us shift patterns: Adaptive Action, Standing in Inquiry, and Pattern Logic (CDEs).
      • Practice using pattern logic to look at patterns that need shifting in your own (or client’s) system.
      • You will understand when and how your tried-and-true approaches succeed and even more important, you will learn when and how they fail.
      • You will expand your world view and your toolkit to prepare you and your clients for the future that is beyond prediction and control. 
      • Rigorously un-learn and apply the seven deep assumptions (the seven dragons) that apply to simple systems, but not to complex adaptive systems.
        Program Leaders

        Glenda Eoyang is the founding executive director of the Human Systems Dynamics Institute. Since 1986, she has applied principles of complexity to all aspects of human systems. She leads a network of over 900 scholar-practitioners who tame wicked issues across contexts and disciplines. She trains, coaches, and consults internationally. Recent clients include National Health Service (UK), VTT—National Research Institute (Finland), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US). 

        Her publications include articles in professional, scholarly, and practitioner journals and book chapters in fields ranging from mathematical analysis to medical education and leadership. She has co-authored multiple books, including Coping with Chaos: Seven Simple Tools (1996)Facilitating Organization Change: Lessons from Complexity Science (2001), and Adaptive Action: Leveraging Uncertainty in Your Organization (2013). Videos, blog posts, and white papers are available on the HSD website Glenda and her community share their work freely, under open access guidelines.  

        Michael Spayd has been a pioneer in the Agile world for 21 years, bringing in thinking and methods from professional coaching, leadership development (LD), organization development (OD), Integral and systemic methods that are relevant to the transformation of self, culture, and leadership in service of organizational agility. Michael is known as a transformational teacher and leader, with a deep ability to facilitate both compelling and transformational learning environments.

        Michael is a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded the Agile Coaching Institute, Trans4mation, and most recently, The Collective Edge. He has taught, coached, and mentored many thousand Agile coaches, managers, and leaders in his years in the field. He is the co-author of a highly anticipated book, Agile Transformations: Using the Integral Agile Transformation Framework to Think and Lead Differently, which was published in December 2020.

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