Wednesday, August 11, 2021


Complexity is a part of our sophisticated natural and human world. Complexity is diverse, ambiguous, and dynamic with unpredictable outcomes.

Organizations are complex, people are complex, and business ecosystems are complex. Complexity comes in due to business volatility, diversity, emergence, unpredictability, nonlinearity, rules and regulation. There are many shades and greys of complexity today. 

On one side, the greater organizational complexity can improve agility to adapt to the changes; on the other side, the undesired complexity can make things over-complicated to stifle creativity. How to manage complexity, enhance intelligence and optimize the business ecosystem holistically?

Number of highly influential, highly misaligned stakeholders: Regardless of smart sensors or deep analysis, people are the center of any organization; people-related complexity causes chaos, but also brings orders. One line of human development is cognitive complexity which is a multifaceted issue -relating to people’s thought process coherence, information fluency, or decision/problem-solving maturity, etc. To untangle unprecedented complexity, we reach a stage to assess logic of everything: thoughts, language, actions. Organizations have multiple stakeholders, each of them has different expectations for business growth and change, and each of them pursue goals and approach varying problems differently from strategic or methodological perspective, etc; all of which cause complexity. The management needs to dig through complexity by asking: What are desired complexity, what are unwanted complications? Is business management increasing in hierarchical complexity because they need to coordinate more things or they want to enforce status-quo? Are various stakeholders highly collaborative to achieve common goals or are they misaligned to pull in the different direction, becoming the very cause of the business stagnation? Beside cognitive complexity, what’re human related complexities that significantly impact business results, positively or negatively, why? Etc.

In reality, nothing impedes progress more than protective silos which are simply a form of bureaucratic management hierarchy designed to preserve the status quo. To handle complexity and run a holistic business effectively, it’s the importance of understanding how relationships work, strengthening connections between business units, searching for meaningful business relationships both within these subsystems and between them; monitor and observe links and feedback systems to achieve business purposes. In practice, the degree of inflexibility in constraints, in the particular field generates bottlenecks in capacity building, outdated information or knowledge or static processes enlarges the variety of business gaps. It’s important to structure management without adding too much complexity, streamline business flow, generate winning concepts on a consistent basis, to achieve sustainable business advantage.

Number of points of integration: Organizations are overwhelmed with information growth, structural/non structural processes, corporate supported or mixed apps/tools/methods to do the daily tasks. To deal with complexity as the growth pain, besides consolidation, the critical step is to integrate - integrate sub-strategy into a holistic corporate strategy; integrate organizational capabilities into core competencies; integrate best/next practices into innovative management disciplines. By integrating, you are creating a case where you force an organizational alignment to integration to optimization to maximize the organizational value from existing systems and the need for better business performance and responsiveness.

Every intelligence has complexity in it. Complexity can be managed to convey “just right” simplicity. Technically, the complexity of aggregate layers of every subsystem is a burden that often causes conflicts or creates potential integration hairballs, the business/IT leaders need to work collaboratively to manage it regardless of who builds it. It takes a structural approach to deal with effectively. If the situation is very natural and fluid, with a lot of inter-dependencies, it takes a holistic view and cross functional management approach to integrate seamlessly by opening up cross-disciplined dialogs and lubricating interrelationships between all of the crucial points and how they influence each other in improving organizational maturity.

Number of switches interconnected in the business ecosystem: Ecosystem is complex, nonlinear, uncertain, and volatile, interrelated, and interconnected, full of opportunities and risks. Organizations today are the switches connected into ever-expanded ecosystems that keep enhancing balance and growth cycle synchronously. Emergence of business events coming up with the concept of nonlinear behavior, as well as the "newness" of the scope and approach to the organizational transformation are not always predictable, and could not be fully articulated in terms of their components, interconnectivity, and interrelationships, etc. Companies today need to understand the dynamic competitive landscape, their interdependence with the environment, and proactively fund ecosystem partners that can work together to deal with network complexity and build differentiated business competency.

In this regard, complexity either information complexity or design complexity, is the solution to make transformative change. In fact, to make the large scale of business transformation, the successful integration will depend on the oversight of trends and historical lessons; underlying business structures and relationships, cross-domain insight, adjacent industrial marketing penetration, etc. Nevertheless, complexity and complication do not mean the same thing. Something that is complex is not necessarily difficult, but something that is complicated does have a high degree of difficulty to deal with. As always, if complexity drives progression, follow “simplicity” principles to manage it carefully.

Complexity is a part of our sophisticated natural and human world. Complexity is diverse, ambiguous, and dynamic with unpredictable outcomes. Not every complexity is bad, all intelligent beings are complex at a certain level, the point is how to eliminate the unnecessary complexity (complication) to make it elegant; how to encourage complex thinking - see different things and see things differently, break things down and tie them up, discover hidden clues and weight varying factors, and apply cross-disciplinary approach to drive societal evolution.


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