In Part 1, we defined complexity and explored its effect on organizations and teams. Now, let’s take a look at complexity in the individual sphere.
For individuals, complexity is defined as exceeding our capacity for uncertainty (Complexity Capacity).
Several things are valuable to understand about complexity in individuals.
First, humans have a basic drive seeking certainty. There are many things happening in the world that we do not have answers about. When we experience too many of those uncertainties we feel overwhelmed and stressed. At KSI we use colors to simplify how we describe the world related to certainty:
- Black describes certainty. (There are right answers, best practices, etc.)
- White describes chaos and high levels of uncertainty and unpredictability.
- Gray describes everything in between – degrees of complexity or shades of gray.
Second, people have different levels of complexity (which is not the same as intelligence). As defined by Elliott Jacques, many statistical studies of people found, there is high correlation between the number of major emotional issues we can deal with at one time and the length of time horizon we are able to think into the future. People have different complexity capacities, generally increasing a level about every 15 years. For example:
- 42% of people = complexity of ONE (one major emotional item / 1 to 30 day thinking horizon)
- 48% of people = complexity of TWO (two major emotional items / 90 day to 1 year thinking horizon)
The implication is this: when we add more complexity (major emotional issues / needing to think farther ahead), we become more and more stressed as we exceed our “complexity capacity,” which lowers our “complexity capacity” just when we need it most.
Third, individuals get past ceilings of complexity by creating leverage.
Leverage = Greater Results with Less Effort!
- Leverage thinking involves creating new “lenses” (frameworks) to see things differently. For example, visualize your day as a series of events. Think about an event such as a meeting. What makes meetings better? Most people would say thinks like: preparation, good facilitation, follow up, etc. What makes all events better (even your planning time)? The same things!
- Leverage doing involves building habits. We are all 100% disciplined to our habits. Deliberate practice plans for performance behaviors. Leveraging structure (space and environment) and technology tools.
- Leverage people involves thinking “who, now how.” Create clear handoffs and build feedback loops. The result is more consistent execution.
- Leverage learning involves accelerating learning. 70% of learning is in the experience (doing). 20% of learning is noticing and mentoring. 10% of learning is training.
The complexity challenge is not going away.
We need to deal with it. The most important question is “How?” How will you organize and manage yourself and your teams to deal with greater complexity?We have some ideas!
Embrace the challenge,