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Early Hybridization

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

Upstream, Adaptive, Inclusive

Welcome back Humantific readers. Building on our recent posts on the subject of Behavioral Ambidexterity, we are this week sharing an update on additional dimensions inside our Complexity Navigation Program, first launched in 2007.

In the years subsequent to launch we have, as a SenseMaking for ChangeMaking practice, had a chance to apply, test, refine and rerefine both the consulting and skill-building aspects of Complexity Navigation. It’s both what we do and what we teach, primarily to organizational leaders.

Spanning multiple countries, industries and organizations we have, working in collaboration with clients, not only quietly undertaken many complex changemaking engagements but trained many hundreds of organizational leaders, in Complexity Navigation skills, most recently in Madrid, Rome, Istanbul, Dubai, Mexico City, Cairo and New York.

From time-to-time the proportions might fluctuate, depending on marketplace variables, but generally 50% of our business is transformation/complex problem solving/changemaking and 50% is skill-building, capacity building.

We are often asked if we are up for teaching other consultants, but the short answer is that we are not set up in that direction. We do work with many internal groups operating as internal consultants inside global corporations. Some of those internal groups presently offer design related services; product, service or experience creation but want to learn how to work upstream, adding more strategic value to their organizations.

Many internal groups no longer want to wait around downstream until someone has a product, service or experience challenge and prefer to be equipped to be proactively helping with complex problem solving, sensemaking and changemaking across their organization. Right now there is great interest in inserting human-centered Complexity Navigation into technology oriented digital transformation initiatives. The human dimensions often seem to be missing.

Over the years, in various conference talks we have previously shared numerous versions of how this work is different from Conventional Design / Design Thinking, from CPS (Creative Problem Solving), from Systemic Design, from Structural Ambidexterity, from Agile, etc.

In addition, for those readers who might not know: Humantific is also the corporate sponsor of NextD Journal, focused for a decade+ on Design for Complexity. Our last book, Rethinking Design Thinking: Making Sense of the Future that has Already Arrived, focused on explaining that complex, rather messed up subject, the challenges it facesadjusting to rising complexity of challenges and where the emerging practice community is already working.

Design, CPS and Ambidexterity are among the communities of practice that we participate in and contribute to. The complexity is that where the Design community is, where the CPS community is, where the Organizational Ambidexterity community is and where Humantific is, in terms of this changemaking/complexity subject are four different things..:-) None of those communities perfectly reflect where we are, how we have evolved and what we are doing.

Our clients know that each year we update the attributes of Humantific Complexity Navigation to best reflect what we are doing, what we have learned, how it has evolved. Being authors of two previous books, we do often wish we had more time for public writing. Engaged often in confidential strategic work for organizations makes that client oriented, public writing extra difficult. Organizations seem to be getting more and more interested in keeping their capacity building initiatives confidential. The pandemic changed many aspects of work but the need to become adaptive in the face of the ongoing information tsunami and VUCA remains constant.

As referenced in the Complexity Navigation Workbook 2007-2022, we can talk about the Complexity Navigation approach, the program, from many different directions but essentially it provides the human engine underneath the ambition, the strategic goal of becoming a continuously adaptive organization in the face of continuous change and rising complexity of challenges facing most industries and organizations.

How does an organization gear up its multidisciplinary workforce for the ongoing tackling of fuzzy complex internal and external challenges as well as the scanning required to feed those challenges and opportunities?

It’s great for organizations to have an adaptive ambition but how do you make it real and applicable to the real world today? How are you going to operationalize adaptability in the so-called “age of complexity”? Big question!

From experience we know that numerous active attributes must be present as a foundation within Humantific, in order for us to deliver our three primary services:

Everyday Complexity Navigation

Complexity Navigation Skill-Building

Inclusive Innovation Culture Building

Underneath those three services are these key attributes.


1. Powered by Inclusive/Adaptive Ambidexterity Innovation Strategy.

2. Synced to VUCA and continuous change.

3. Begins upstream from briefs.

4. Incorporates life-centered, customer/stakeholder empathetic insights.

5. Fueled by Visual SenseMaking.

6. Activated by multi-disciplinary co-creation mastery.

7. Maps systemic challenge constellations.

8. Incorporates root innovation behaviors.

9. Enables cognition-based psychological safety.

10. Embraces everyday complexity, not theory.

11. Integrates systemic perspectives, not systems manifestos.

12. Enhanced by adaptive toolset.

13. Visualized methodology oriented.

14. Process, not content focused.

15. Expands the universe via generative thinking.

16. Provides fuel for collaborative decision making.

17. Integrates complex facilitation leadership.

18. Acknowledges virtual work challenges.

19. Lifts heavy with inclusive culture building.

20. Shifts from unaligned to harmonic alignments across 10 dimensions of Vision, Strategy, Values, Team, Processes, Thinking, Information, Technology, Environments and Culture.

21. Encompasses ongoing change initiative leader skill-building/coaching.

We already know that just adding one attribute, one extra ingredient to Design, CPS or Ambidexterity won’t magically get the job done in the context that complex organizations and planet earth now face.

Since we wrote a book on the subject of innovation methods history, spanning an 80+ year period, we are familiar with methods from various communities of practice. It’s been clear for some time that most leading innovation practices are operating with hybrid methods.

Most innovation methods have been influenced by CPS community knowledge, which has a long R&D history that precedes, Soft Systems Thinking, Agile, and many, many others. Of course it is not really about how old methodology is but rather how long has it been evolving and applied in the real world, specifically to fuzzy complex situations.

For Humantific, early hybridization of the best of multiple methods has allowed us to be active in the arenas of organizational complexity and societal complexity for more than a decade. We have already learned a lot.

How do the abstractions of complexity theory relate to what organizational leaders are facing and to our everyday practice? That's an ongoing conversation but what we do know is that we do not subscribe to every theory, every speculation in every paper or every proposed “sensemaking” framework. From a practice/methods perspective, some are useful, many do not hold water. Others contain dynamics contrary to inclusive culture.

While we appreciate the contributions of numerous pioneers writing on the subject of complexity and creativity in organizations such as Ralph Stacey, author of the 1996 Complexity and Creativity in Organizations, there isn’t much there in tone or focus that we subscribe to or agree with in practice today.

In particular, the “shadow culture” that Stacey described is not the shadow culture that we often see in organizational contexts running contrary to stated intensions; an entire conversation for another day. In enabling innovation practice we have to be fully aware, but we do not dwell on shadow culture. Instead we focus on the construction of cogntively diverse, psychological safety for all, as a foundation for participation in innovation and changemaking.

The notion that complexity equates to a return to the disconnect days of no shared process runs contrary to everything we have learned and what we are seeing need for in everyday practice. However you might choose to define the differences between complicated and complex organizational challenges, we don't see the need for common innovation language, innovation behaviors, psychological safety, or alignments disappearing anytime soon.

Of course in the wild west of the marketplace, there are going to be folks selling their advocacy of no process as the new “complexity era” process but that will not be us..:-)

We are happy to remain engaged in these exciting, evolving, bumpy subjects.

Hope this is helpful Humantific readers. Stay tuned for more.


Previously Published:

*Note: Key Attributes: If you are an organizational leader interested in learning more about the Complexity Navigation Approach and or Complexity Navigation Skill-Building Program including its Key Attributes feel free to let us know. kickitup (at) humantific (dot) com


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