Much attention is paid to tools, methods, models, and other artifacts as a means to support learning and innovation while much of what makes real change happen is actually a process. It is doing, not thinking. It’s diving in to the pool rather than focusing on the fences around it.
Today we look at one of the most simple, powerful means for creating change in complex systems: the diving-in process.
From Confusion to Coherence
Uncertainty is troublesome and often prompts a pause. When the situation is murky and situation complex, the strategy forward is to generate coherence where there isn’t any. That comes from taking action with a commitment to evaluation and learning.
By taking action we start to affect the situation around us creating a pathway forward. By paying attention and learning as we go ahead we can quickly determine whether the coherence we create is beneficial or not and start adjusting as we go until we are able to generate a stable situation where the path forward is clearer.
Diving in to a situation is not being reckless when accompanied by strategic learning through evaluation. Capturing data on what happens (e.g., observations, quantitative, etc..) will provide you with something to focus on amid the confusion and that will lead to seeing patterns, which is where coherence emerges.
Diving in is as it sounds: take a leap of hope. First, make a conscious, deliberative strategic decision to pursue a path of action without expectation for an outcome, only for learning.
Build a set of metrics that are simple, have low ambiguity, and can be applied readily to capture feedback from your actions. These might be sales numbers, website traffic, number of clients or patients seen, occurrence figures — anything that is tied directly to your actions. It’s about creating that smallest visible system. These can be observational, numerical, or something else.
Next, commit to attentive, reflective sensemaking. This means capturing and examining your data regularly and often to look for patterns. Where you see patterns — and preferably, where your team sees them (this is best done as a group) — start reflecting on what it might mean. Is it positive? Negative? Too soon to tell? As patterns emerge, you follow them and document what actions you take in response to those patterns.
The last step is to adjust your strategy as necessary and repeat until you’re moving into a place of greater certainty and clarity about what to do.
This will generate coherence and enable you to take a wise action next.
It doesn’t eliminate uncertainty altogether, rather this approach allows you to avoid being paralyzed by it and potentially create positive benefits in the process of reducing it.
If you want help with finding pathways forward through uncertainty reach out and contact us. We can help you see opportunities and design strategies to take you away from confusion to coherence, safely.