Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  23 Aug 2010

MANAGEMENT: Lessons In Complexity


Recent Western Cape Business News

The UCT Graduate School of Business has designed an executive course that prepares senior executives and leaders to handle the chaos and complexity of their work by using a bit of chaos to open their minds to new insights.

The Leading Executive Programme (LEP), says programme director Chris Breen, is designed specifically to mirror the complex and sometimes chaotic world of business today. Previous delegates have cited an increase in awareness, calmness under pressure, and critically, an enhanced ability to see the world from new perspectives and spot opportunities, as key kickbacks of the programme.

We live in an information-rich world that is fraught with complexity, a place where it is impossible to be right all the time, yet companies expect that from their leaders and leaders expect it from themselves. The danger with this is that leaders begin to believe that they do ‘know it all’ and in the process prevent new ideas and perspectives from taking root,” explained Breen of the perils of traditional command-and-control styles of leadership.

When that happens, the possibility for innovation is severely stifled and the same mistakes are made over and over again.”

While most senior leaders would readily admit that the business world they operate in today is vastly different from that of just two decades ago, not many have translated this into an actual change in the way they operate.

That’s according to Dr Peter Senge of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who writes in the book Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future, that “even as conditions in the world change dramatically, most businesses, governments and other large organisations continue to take the same kinds of institutional actions that they always have.”

This reactive behaviour, he claims, is governed by “downloading habitual ways of thinking, of continuing to see the world within the familiar categories we're comfortable with”. In this scenario, the ability to do things differently and to see new opportunities and possibilities is severely reduced, says Breen.

The two-week LEP is thus designed to expose leaders to their own shortcomings and prejudices by “throwing them into complexity and exposing their unconscious resistances and prejudices”.

With no set timetable, no lecture notes or any idea of what will happen from one day to the next – indeed from each moment to the next – the programme mimics the chaotic and unpredictable world that leaders operate within on a daily basis in a way that conventional development programmes cannot do.

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