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Theory of Complexity

C: Welcome to Slingshot25’s Shotcast, a series of bite-sized podcasts that will feel like an espresso shot to your brain. I’m Courtney.

J: And I’m Jackie. 

C: And something. We’ve been thinking about actually talking about it.

A lot is the theory of complexity turns out that in almost every class. We teach we end up teaching the theory of complexity, and well maybe we should just tell everyone about it.

J: Yeah, that’s a good idea. I wish we had like, you know, some sort of way we can just talk to people and release it on the internet. So, the Theory of Complexity, you’re right, Courtney

I find myself in almost every class I do. whether I’m talking about leadership, tough conversations, or change management, I end up Sort of trotting out this theory of complexity which we did not invent (Dave Snowden did) I’m going to start with like what is the big giant takeaway from the theory of complexity? Which sounds like something very mathematical like that should appear in like it you know, like some sort of fancy calculus course or something.

Why we end up talking about it in people courses is because it teaches us a really important lesson about what it means to interact with people, the theory of complexity is the basic four box Model says, there’s like four general levels of complexity in the world like everything that happens in this world can fall into one of these categories. One of those categories is simple. We don’t end up talking a lot about simple. And then when we were talking about people, most of your day is actually surrounded by just very simple things, you don’t have a lot of complexity that you have to swim through every single day that is sort of lost on you.

C: You’re routine. 

J: That’s right. Your routine ought to think about precisely about that too much. We end up talking about two boxes in the four box because they tend to get conflated and confused one is what we call complicated. Complicated is all the really like hard math stuff andI usually described that is complicated to the stuff that puts a person on the moon is what NASA will use used in 1969 to put a person on the moon and probably will use again to put a person on the moon again, and I believe 2025 they’re aiming for. So it’s just about things that can be figured out, even if they’re really hard, but there is an answer – that’s complicated stuff…. 

C: Physics. Gravity, economics balancing your checkbook, right? There’s a right answer and there’s a formula. 

J: That’s right, that’s right. So we introduced a to people and usually the people that were talking to him, these classes, their jobs are primarily, you know, in a field of a complicated maybe they’re Engineers or maybe they are in logistics or things that take me to take figuring it out and there is an answer. But then there is another box in this theory of complexity called well complex and what we reveal to our participants is, we’re all human beings. 

C: There is no direct correlation between cause and effect in human beings, right? Right? There’s no law of gravity. People will respond how they respond? 

J: That’s right. People will recognize that we all have free will and so there’s no consistent correlation, you’re right? Like when we think we figure something out, it will change again, and it will change again, and, so one of the things that we teach right away, especially when we’re leadership in leadership classes or teaching about how to help people through change is to just embrace the complexity of it don’t try to solve for it. There’s no single answer. There are things you can do that are better or worse and that largely lies in how you think about the situation. Not necessarily your technique, technique comes from thinking about things differently. And so we encourage people to understand that they’re actually sitting across the table or, you know, on the other end of an interaction with a human being, that it is not figure out-able. So stop trying to do it. 

C: Yes. And we take random getting a lot of even requests sometimes for things like checklists or what do I do in this scenario? Or what’s the shortcut? Or what’s the answer and that is complicated thinking, right? Like what’s the problem here? How do I solve it? And I want to solve it the same way every time for every person. In a complex environment, When you’re dealing with human beings, the math is sense and respond. And the sensing is going to depend on the person’s experience, feelings or emotions at the moment, right? What you sense at, 9 a.m. from someone might be very different by 3 o’clock, depending on what happened in their day, you sense and respond. And so the answer is always, it depends, it’s always, it depends. And good leaders are good at sensing and responding. And they skip over the trap of thinking…if you just tell me exactly what to say, when this person feels this way, it doesn’t work like that. Humans don’t work like that. 

J: Because humans have something you need from every other system that you deal with.

Whether you’re dealing with mechanical systems, or chemical systems or software systems. The one thing that human systems essentially have different from all of those other kinds of systems is feelings and emotions. Those are not present so far, they’re not present in AI, I just want to say never now. But right now human beings are the only thing that have emotions and emotions are, actually what drives those interactions. There’s typically very little data, or real facts involved in most conversations. Conversations between people are rooted in your conversations and maybe this is a challenge to all of you, pay attention to how much of your conversations are actually wrapped around how you feel, than any true data or facts. Even the conversations you have work that are actually, you know, that have involved some data and some facts but pay attention to how much of it’s actually based on how you feel about a situation. 

C: All right, well, that’s all we have for this episode. If you want to learn more about the theory of complexity, seriously Google it. We can talk about it for much longer, but that’s what we have today. And we always have more to say if you want more, drop us a line at Until next time…

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