Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

What makes complexity complex? Why the fuss? Here’s a brief review of the key components and how they relate. It should remind you of your own experiences – your own sense of complexity and what you go through in bringing people together (or separating them, as the case may be) in solving problems and creating solutions.

As has been stated in previous blogs, the hallmark of complex systems is emergent behavior; behavior that flows bottom-up and is different in kind, creating something novel. A flame is a good example. The chemistry of burning carbon and hydrogen (wood) gives no indication of how a flame would appear. Here is another example. Knowing children want to play is one thing, predicting what games they will invent is in a “whole ‘nother ballgame” (pun intended).

The Building Blocks of Complexity

Four components and how they vary are at the source of complexity:

  • The ability to learn and adapt;
  • Connectedness;
  • Interdependency;
  • Diversity


Critical to emergence is the ability to learn and adapt. Novelty is what comes from complexity. This means having a team that learns, uses what works, and creates what is needed.


This is about being engaged, connected to the situation and people, and being fully present.  If you’ll allow a little hyperbole, the engineer and problem are one and this mythical engineer is in touch with everyone else in the situation.


In addition to connection there needs to be flexing. There needs to be the ability to influence one another (power) for emergence to occur. In complexity, Thomas Merton’s statement, “No man is an island,” is quite appropriate. One person on high does not dictate emergent structures – they evolve from the group in a situation where everyone and no one can take credit. It is the team that gets the credit.


For thorny, complex challenges to be taken on and fruitful results generated multiple frames of mind are needed. Healthy challenges from everyone involved – the conflict of diversity is needed.

The Interesting In-Between

How do these attributes, these variables relate in a complex system. “The Interesting In-Between” is a phrase John H. Miller, PhD, and Scott Page, PhD, use in their book, Complex Adaptive Systems in discussing how “settings” of the four variables are critical if emergence is to occur. The key trait is no one variable must either disappear or dominate. They each must be at the “in-between” setting.

If learning is at zero then obviously no adaptation will occur. Whatever set of rules are being used right now is how it will be. If it is at 100% everyone will know everything about everyone else and equilibrium will set in. Novelty will disappear.

Similarly, if connectedness is at zero novelty will be absent since there will be no influence on the system. On the flip side, if everyone is connected to everyone else then, once again, equilibrium sets in and novelty disappears.

Interdependency at zero would give us a bunch of hardheads with no interest in listening to others. If you have an adolescent child worried about what others think you are familiar with the paralysis that occurs with complete interdependence.

Diversity also influences novelty and emergence. If there is no diversity then groupthink occurs. If everyone is completely diverse then no common ground exists upon which a successful solution can emerge.

In addition to showing attributes that go into complexity the need for complexity shows when looking at these variables. Imagine a situation where same-old, same-old just doesn’t make it. Things can get very tiring and frustrating. It is like the vanity plates I see on a car routinely driving around the neighborhood, “SS DD.” If you don’t know what that means and want to find out, send me an e-mail.

Maintain a Balance Point

What all of this boils down to is the responsibility of the leader to maintain a balance among all four variables at a mid-point which has a positive tension.  To borrow a term from astronomers looking for earth-like planets, Goldilocks positions must be held for each variable, not too dampened and not too wild.

A diverse workforce: The smart thing to do

by Robert Driscoll on August 20, 2010

Business is no longer about what product or service you can provide in a local or regional marketplace.  Today it’s about competing in a global one.  The internet has allowed companies that once were only able to support a local or regional area to now make offers on a global basis.  Competing in the global marketplace not only means diversifying your products and/or services, but your most important asset as well: your workforce.

Some people still believe companies hire diverse workforces because it’s the politically correct thing to do.  What companies are finding out though is that hiring a diverse workforce allows companies to expand easier in to new markets with a diverse client base as they are in a better position to understand the demographics of the customers they serve.  At a high level, this is true, but just because you hire a diverse workforce will not guarantee you success in the marketplace.  Like with any group of employees, it’s what you do with them and how you use their diversities to your advantage in the marketplace.

Diversity in the workplace at your company should not only be limited to race, gender and age, but differences of views and personalities as well.  As a leader, you need to recognize these differences and align your people accordingly as it relates to their job function, whether it’s in sales, marketing, human resources, etc…  You wouldn’t have someone like Donald Trump head up your HR department unless you wanted everyone fired, right?  Understand your employees’ strengths and put them in positions where they will have the greatest impact.

At the same time, you need to get your diverse workforce to work together.  Simply putting them in a group setting and hoping they come up with unique and uncommon ideas will not happen on its own.  Without the proper guidance in a group setting they will talk about what they have in common rather than their differences.  All you will get is group-think and nothing innovative will come from them.  It is important to let the group know everyone’s background and who has knowledge in certain areas and to encourage them to share their unique knowledge.  But take it one step further.  Instead of just having the group share their unique knowledge, encourage an environment where they can debate so as to challenge the ideas of other members.  Yes, some disagreements and hard feelings might come of this, but it could lead to coming up with new and innovative ideas.  Ideas that could possibly change the marketplace you are in.

The landscape of the marketplace is diverse and constantly changing.  You must embrace it or you will miss out on new opportunities.  The same goes for your workforce.  Diversity in your workforce isn’t just the “right” thing to do.  It’s the smart thing to do.