“There is always a “next””

“There is always a “next”” was a comment made by my colleague and partner, Denise, during a recent conversation. She was referring to the emergent, iterative nature of our work together. After some months of acknowledging an element of our Complexity Space Framework (CSF) that required additional definition, we  focused attention on it and made a major breakthrough. We recognized  that both we and potential users of the CSF would reasonably want to know how they could assess the impact of using it. In these days of intense competition for scarce resources, how could we help clients answer the question, “What return might we expect for our investment of time and money in the CSF?”

The answers that emerged focused on two complementary and simultaneously occurring axes. The first focused on the “what” dimensions of the issue(s) of concern.   Using one of our favorite analogies, did the client “catch the fish” they were hoping to catch? They might have been fishing in a pond for people-related issues, a lake for process-related issues, a river for strategy-related issues, or an ocean for product/market/service innovations.

The second axis focused on the pattern shifting, “how”, dimensions of their complex adaptive system. Returning to fishing, what did the client learn about “how to fish?”   Did they learn new skills to make them more agile? Increase the speed and efficacy of their learning? Allow them to scale – up or down – more rapidly and seamlessly? Experiment and innovate more freely?

Those “aha’s” led to more feverish activity as we defined different indicators, focus areas, and potential outcomes for each. That led to ways to illustrate all of the above graphically. Those led to an exploration of how to create a user-friendly tool that would help to guide client thinking not only at the end of the process (we try to never lose sight of the ROI (“return on investment”) question), but at the beginning to help them create new conversations about their continuously emerging outcomes.

All of this work happened in one week! We were both thrilled with how much we had accomplished in such a short time. Yet even as we “basked in the glow” of our discoveries, we realized how many more questions this latest area of our work had triggered.   We smiled as we acknowledged for ourselves what we have been sharing with others – complex systems are continuously emerging. Change is never “done.” “There is always a “next.””

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