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Welcome RISE Report

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Navigating Complexity in Sweden

Welcome RISE Institute in Sweden to the ever-expanding, global conversation on the subject of Complexity Navigation. We are happy to see your insightful report and welcome you to the diverse, emerging practice community working in this evolving, often bumpy terrain.

Since we launched our Humantific Complexity Navigation Program in 2008, we have seen a steady growth of interest in this subject. It was with considerable interest that we recently read the RISE Institute investigative report entitled Navigating Complexity based on your experience in Sweden. Thanks to RISE report authors Lisa Carlgren and Pernilla Glaser for sharing.

While the RISE report does not exactly reflect what we do in Humantific practice, we did see numerous commonalities and significant value in many of the points that the RISE team makes. We saw lots of parallels, in terms of the RISE Institute and Humantific changemaking objectives.

As in an emerging community there are always going to be diverse interpretations, approaches, perspectives. Perhaps most importantly we were interested to see that you landed in the realm of practicality, rather than in the theory swamps on this still emerging subject.

In the interest of knowledge sharing: Happy to share a glimpse into what we have learned working with organizational leaders in diverse industries. In case you might not know: We have for numerous years been working as a Complexity Navigation consulting practice and also teaching the skills to organizational leaders in our Complexity Navigation Program.

Below is a mini summary of ten things in the RISE report that resonated with us as practitioners, as well as a summary of ten things that Humantific Does Differently.

Ten Things We Liked in the RISE Report:

1. “Making change is navigating complexity.”“Feeling unsafe reduces the ability to take on complexity.”…“The safer you feel with navigating complexity, the more complex challenges you dare to take on”….“The more complex the issue, the more skills it takes by those working in the project.” Complexity can be deeply problematic. But it is also rich, diverse, and holds the promise of unexpected solutions.”

2. When organizations, their culture and processes are discussed, it is easy to take the words we use for granted. We might assume that everyone has the same understanding of a concept such as “complexity” or “innovation”. But these kinds of words, that are part of an ever-changing vocabulary, carry different meanings in different contexts.”

3. ”Complexity is about systems. Systems are about relations­hips. Things that act in one way as solitary entities some­times behave in another way when interacting. A plastic bag, for example, is good to carry things in, but behaves differently from an environ­mental perspective.”

4. “In almost any area dealing with societal change - communication, tech­nological development, inno­vation, health care, etc. - we encounter layers of complexi­ty.”

5. “We perceive an increase in complexity due to a faster rate of change and greater fluidity between different systems and disciplines, but also a gre­ater capacity to identify, frame and understand how complex­ity can be navigated.”

6. “As a field of research, Com­plexity Theory is fairly new, established by the Santa Fe Institute in the 1980s (ref). Complexity Theory is in and of itself interdisciplinary, spring­ing out of natural and biologi­cal sciences as well as phi­losophy and social sciences.” “Complexity theory is both a continuation of System Theo­ry (ref) and in dialogue with it. At its center is the concept of complex adaptive systems.”

7. “This is a system that can’t be understood as the sum of its smaller parts. It is nonlinear and behaves in ways that can be hard to predict. The human brain is an example of such a system. When municipalities, companies, global challenges such as migration and climate change display features of complex adaptive systems, we are faced with massive organizational challenges.”

8. To understand how we create the culture we are in is to understand how we can un­derstand and navigate com­plexity, or, in other words, how we make and roll with change.”..“When we get feedback on our behavior and can create clusters, we make change together. Making change is navigating complexity.”

9. “Projects are great when you need to work with simple matters, and even with complicated matters, but they don’t stand up to the demands of complexity. Complexity is not about “thinking out of the box.” It is about fitting different boxes and trying to understand what goes on between the boxes.”

10. “In our discussions throughout the project, we saw that many people feel locked in a power struggle between the organi­zation and the individual. The structures that are in place between the individual and the outer framework and de­liverables of the organization often serve more to control than to support. What is missing are the supportive clusters that go beyond pro­jects, collaborative structu­res that focus on learning, recovery and reflection. This is not necessarily a question of resources; it is how we value and organize the time of collaborators. If we are all in constant production, then we will eventually produce the wrong things and burn out.”

HUMANTIFIC Complexity Navigation

Ten Things We Do Differently:

Opportunity Outlook

1. Humantific Complexity Navigators (this includes client graduates of our skill-building program) are sensemaking and changemaking, methodology oriented practitioners, operating in an always in motion, never perfect “VUCA” (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world. They possess the hybrid skill, the courage and the conviction to add exceptional value to any complex condition, conversation or initiative. Humantific Complexity Navigators view complexity as both a challenge and an opportunity.

Everyday Complexity

2. Humantific Complexity Navigators bridge theory and practice, philosophy and methodology always landing in the practicalities of the everyday work challenges of often overloaded organizational leaders. Force-fitting all organizational and societal challenges into the current state of complexity theory is not the focus of Humantific Complexity Navigators. Being human-centered, we are interested in helping organizational leaders grapple with what we have come to call Everyday Complexity. Complexity Navigators recognize that the relationships between various theories and actual practice is not fixed, but rather remains evolving and emergent.

Navigation Mastery

3. Humantific Complexity Navigation requires process mastery of an adaptive set of orientation tools including a Complexity Navigator Framework, the architecture of which is applicable to all kinds of complex problematic terrain. That Complexity Navigator Framework becomes the central sensemaking orientation tool utilized to help make sense of complex unstructured variables being tossed around in real time conversations, observed in action-research, seen in narrative stories, embedded in documents, popping up throughout everyday work. We see the term navigation as a form of way-finding through all of what the VUCA storms can throw in our collective direction. A compass does not dictate which direction we should take but it does help us orient in storms. While numerous methods and tools now exist in the marketplace, under the banner of complexity, some even positioned as sensemaking devices, few are holistic in nature, few are problematic way-finding navigators.

Systems & Challenges

4. Humantific Complexity Navigators distinguish between problématiques and systems as containers of problématiques. Viewing a container may or may not be equivalent to surfacing what the challenges are inside the container. Organizations can be viewed as complex adaptive systems but that in itself does not articulate the challenges that exist inside the systems. Articulating/categorizing system containers is quite different from articulating/categorizing the many challenges within. Complexity Navigators are interested in the containers and the challenges within as well as the orientation of thinking in systems.

Preconsult Versus Mission

5. Humantific Complexity Navigators distinguish between preconsult exercises and the actual doing of heavy-lift transformation work. Complexity Navigators never assume any problematic situation is as it first appears, so engaging at the outset, in guessing how complex a system, situation or challenge, might be, before any updated situational facts have been surfaced is considered a preliminary exercise, not to be confused with the heavy lift work of engaging in the actual mission. In addition, Complexity Navigators know that, in add-on to complexity, other dimensions come into play, even in quick guestimating of problematic situations including considerations of problem Scale, Fuzziness, Information Volume, Number of Problem Owners, and Precedents. Complexity Navigators recognize that today, few organizations have their innovation skill-sets perfectly aligned with the level and types of complex challenges now facing them. This becomes part of the preconsult conversation. Preconsult is an important admin/management activity, rather than a core mission activity. Mastery of preconsult does not equate to Complexity Navigation mastery.

Open Challenge Framing

6. Humantific Complexity Navigation requires mastery of Open Challenge Framing. This assumption-free framing differs from 99% of conventional design, design thinking methods. Open Framing is sensemaking in the context of fuzzy unstructured situations where the actual challenges are unknown. Open Challenge Framing enables the cocreation of systemic pictures of complex problématiques including intersections between challenges. As challenges scale in complexity more stakeholders arrive to be included. Not ever intended to be perfect, the co-created constellation map becomes the embodiment of what the stakeholders believe the various challenges to be. Often it's the first time a holistic picture of the interconnected challenge landscape has been externalized. Open Challenge Framing maps are added to and adjusted, as more stakeholders contribute. Open Framing is among the most powerful tools in the hybrid Complexity Navigators toolbox.

Visualizing Complexity

7. Humantific Complexity Navigators bring visual sensemaking to the organizational and or societal changemaking party. Drawing strength from, and building on the pioneering work of Otto Neurath, Isotype Institute, Richard Wurman and others who early-on made connections regarding the role of understanding in action. Complexity Navigators recognize that sensemaking is not a tool but rather a much needed continuous process. Different from feedback, its purpose is enabling the collective making sense of internal and external complexities. Proactive continuous scanning, probing and sensing leads to ongoing sensemaking. A significant part of the power of Humantific Complexity Navigation comes from deliberately connecting Visualizing Complexity with ChangeMaking.

Think Balance Facilitation

8. Humantific Complexity Navigation requires significant mastery of co-creation facilitation and a Think Balance orientation brought to all problematic and or opportunistic conditions as well as to all methodology considerations. This is a process orchestration and guidance role, not a content advisory role. Think Balance involves leading awareness regarding the importance and implications of the equal valuing and advocating of divergent and convergent thinking. Enabling Think Balance is a key aspect of Humantific Complexity Navigation leadership. This human-centered enabling is directly tied to psychological safety.

Psychological Safety

9. Building on Think Balance, Humantific Complexity Navigators lead in the construction of psychological safety, not as a list of “please speak up rules,” but rather on the basis of deliberately and visually crafted cognitive diversity, cognitive inclusion and inclusive culture building. Cognitive Inclusion is linked to the Complexity Navigator Framework, linked to the goal of change making. Complexity Navigators are capable of making the case for, explaining the need for, cognitive diversity in the context of innovation and change making. Championing cognitive inclusion is a key aspect of the Complexity Navigators leadership role.

Enabling Adaptation

10. Humantific Complexity Navigation is a way of being, connected to the emerging future of work. It’s about more than configuring for one-off missions. At the organizational level what the Humantific Complexity Navigators are enabling is proactive adaptability (NOT AGILE). Humantific Complexity Navigators recognize that to survive and succeed in the context of "VUCA" (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) an organization must be continuously adapting. This does not mean getting better or continually improving. Humantific Complexity Navigators connect the dimensions above with the ongoing goal of building capacity that will enhance organizational adaptability. Seasoned Humantific Complexity Navigators are coaches and mentors, as well as traction oriented transformation leaders. They possess the skills and interest to help all kinds of people facing all kinds of complex situations. Complexity Navigation is a SenseMaking and ChangeMaking way of life for the post-covid era and beyond.

Hope this is helpful. In closing I will reiterate our congrats again to the RISE Institute team. Looking ahead optimistically, perhaps we might consider collaborating to organize a virtual Complexity Navigation symposium type event sometime soon.

We are always happy to connect with others working in the realm of Complexity Navigation.

Good luck to all.


For more info on the Humantific Complexity Navigation Program and related consulting services write to us at kickitup (at) humantific (dot) com

Image Source: RISE Institute: Navigating Complexity Report.


HUMANTIFIC: Rethinking Design Thinking: Making Sense of the Future that has Already Arrived

HUMANTIFIC: Double Diamond Method: Understanding What Was Missed

HUMANTIFIC: Innovation Methods Mapping: De-Mystifying 80+ Years of Innovation Process Design

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