Monday, May 31, 2010

Capitalizing on Complexity

IBM just came out with its 2010 CEO Survey. Rather than read through the whole thing, I recommend going to the summary on Irving Wladawsky-Berger's blog (again, one of my favorites!!). Among the kajillions of takeaways here, I want to point out just a couple of basic ideas:

1. You (yourself, your company, your community) can either become intimidated by the increasing complexity of the world and suffer from inadequate response to it, or you can try to leverage the complexity to the advantage of yourself and your stakeholders. This is easier said than done, but it a powerful message and requires a committed mindset to get started.

2. Doing this requires creative and critical thinking skills. Where do we get these from? Not from the teach to the test approaches that are rampant in K-12 education, many bachelors and masters level university programs, and even some doctoral programs I have seen that are trying to satisfy companies by providing "job skills" instead of thinking skills. So where will we find people who can do this? Maybe this should be the core of our immigration policy - a critical thinking test.

3. Organizations that are leaders in creativity and innovation tend to have better customer service AND better stock returns. Take THAT banks (not all of them, but the ones that forgot about their customers in the pursuit of shareholder value)! I found this discussion to be a bit of a sidetrack, but useful to think about nonetheless.

4. Operational Dexterity (read about it on his blog) is a key skill set to master in any domain, whether its manufacturing, services, non-profit, or even managing your family. Maybe I am a bit biased by my background in industrial engineering, but I think this is really important. "Agility" is the new "lean."

Maybe there is a hope for government strategy

This article in Time magazine actually made me feel good about the prospects for the world (I have been a bit cynical and pessimistic lately). It seems there is a region in South Africa that is run by a tribe called the Bafokeng. They were screwed over by generations of invaders - of the military, political, and commercial kinds.

But rather than resort to violence, or to just roll over, they used persistence and strategy. And now, they are one of the most successful regions in all of Africa. Read the article.