Planning vs Emergence


While wandering around the mountains things become clear in my mind. Unfortunately back in the lowlands, people are still busy trying to define life, work and all the steps needed to get from A to B. Welcome to my rant for the week…

Recently I have been feeling the pains of people wanting to plan in a complex uncertain situation. After taking Dave Snowden’s Cognitive Edge training, perhaps I have been converted….. I am interested in emergence. In Snowden’s course we discussed ideas that fall within the complex domain such as “How do you see things if you are only looking at the scenario or bounded by a framework?”, “How to do more with far less?” and “How to help organizations evolve to a future that was unknowable in advance but is more contextually appropriate when discovered?”

I am also struck by a comment recently posted on a knowledge management for development list serve I participate in. The person wrote, “The better and more you plan, the harder you get hit by the reality”. Fortunately he followed up with some tips such as: a) understand different forms of change and embrace them, b) prepare to deal with what is emerging (i.e. expect the unexpected and make the most of it), c) keep visions and missions, etc. but don’t design a path from A to B and try and push it through.

The lesson?

Do away with planning in vain and stop worrying about losing control of the situation. Resources are better dedicated to stimulating the positive changes and needs that emerge from our realities.

Somehow I will have to articulate this in tomorrow’s meeting. Looking forward to seeing what emerges 🙂



Filed under knowledge management

2 responses to “Planning vs Emergence

  1. Don’t hold back Michelle! Pretty good emergent rant overall… 🙂

    I have a book for you the next time I see you. It’s all about making a difference in the world – when you’re dealing with complexity. It’s called Getting to Maybe, and I’ve worked with one of the authors.

    Some things are simple and linear (like a cake recipe). Some things are merely complicated (like getting to the moon) and others are truly complex (like raising a child or saving a frog species). Different approaches needed, and yes, most of us would like to be linear with each. Won’t work.

    Rant on anytime.

  2. Pingback: Full Circle Associates » Thinking about systems change practices - letting go

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