Complex Thinking

Coping with Complexity

A Complex World Requires Higher Cognitive Capabilities for Institutional Survival. Leaders must Work at Multiple Levels to connect with all followers. Leaders must reduce polarization and Minimize Conflict between world views.

Most Adults Lack Cognitive Skills to Cope with Rapid Environmental Change or Multinational Complexity

Developing Minds:

Kegan points to the demands made by societies at different points in human history (the Curriculum of the society) as being helpful for understanding why so many of us are now “In over our heads”. Graves looks at development as a psycho-social dynamic between the current Capacity of an individual and the Life Conditions into which he is embedded.  Both observers report that the majority of adults tend to end up at their societal mode.  Is there a developmental fit between the Curriculum demanded by 21st century Life Conditions and the Capacity of adults within it to cope with the complexity and rapid change? 

 Stages of Adult Development – Orders of Mind / Bio-Psycho-Social Values Systems

Diversity Generators  (Individual)

Conformity Enforcers  (Group)

Sovereign Mind (Adolescent)

Self-Worth and Self Defense

Socialized or Traditional Mind (Civilized Adult)

Truth, Stability, Limits and Planning

Self-Authored or Modern Mind (Renaissance Man)

Merit, Mastery of Nature via Objective Analysis, Principals, Solutions

Self-Transforming or Postmodern Mind (Communitarian Network)

Situational, Compassionate, Egalitarian, Shared Purpose

Second Tier-Thought Era or Post-Post Modern View (Systemic Flex/Flow)

Integrative, Interdependent, Functional Response to Chaos, Competencies

Making substantive changes via conformity enforcement has two inherent problems:
1) Consensus takes a long time 2) Produces overly complex, “rules-based” solutions. 

Diversity-generation produces quick solutions to real problems. 

FormPerspective-takingAuthority/Demands of Society
Self-Sovereign Adolescent/
War Lord

Concrete understanding. The only perspective a person can take is his own. All other people are mysterious; helpers or barriers on the road to getting your desires. There is only the present. Authority is in arbitrary rules and regulations made by those in power to benefit themselves. Follow the rules while others are looking; get past them when you can. Friends don’t lie to each other because of a fear of retaliation.
Socialized Traditional
A person becomes embedded in the perspectives of other people/theories, etc. Socialized minds see the world through other perspectives, judging right and wrong, good and bad, from the perspectives of others more worthy to determine truth. Truth holds over time and discontinuity is confusing.  The past leads to the future, so sacrifice now for future gains.Authority is in an internalized value/principle/role which comes from outside oneself. When those important external principles conflict, one feels an internal tearing, as though parts of himself were pitted against one another.  Socialized are loyalty to the group and have the ability to put the needs of the group before needs of the self. 
Self-Authored Modern Achiever OrangeA person can take multiple perspectives while maintaining his own. He can understand the views and opinions of others and often uses those to modify and strengthen his own argument or set of principles.   People own their own ideas and work, become self-motivated, make their own decisions. Competence and expertise are valued.Authority is found in the self. The individual determines rules and regulations for himself. When others disagree, it can be inconvenient or unpleasant, but is not internally wrenching. Because they don’t have leaders whom they blindly trust, Modern people  must find other ways of knowing how to raise their children, do their jobs, and be citizens in the world.
Self-Transforming Post-Modern
A person sees and understands the perspectives of others and uses those  to continuously transform his own system, becoming more expansive and more inclusive. He does not fine-tune his own argument or principles; he puts the entire system at risk for change with each interaction with others.  Subjectivity is the way of life, and objective Facts simply privilege one way of life over another.Authority is fluid and shared, and is not located in any particular person or job. Rather, authority comes from the combination of the situation and the people in the situation. A new situation (or different players) will need a shift in where authority is located. An awareness that we all belong to greater systems which are all tied to one another and to this planet in important ways drives interactions.

Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory  – Dr. Clare Graves’ work on the effect of the complexity of our physical and social environment on individual biological and psychological development. (1)

Spiral Dynamics® – a Graves based theory of step-wise cognitive development.  As our brains mature and grow more neural paths we are able to engage in more complex processing that allows us to step beyond innate preferences to conscious use of other capacities. Cognitive changes coalesce into discrete levels. As we move up to more complex levels of cognitive development, we have more and more options available for processing information and dealing with our environment.(2)

Forms of Mind – Robert Kegan and Jennifer Berger’s research on adult development suggests that our post-modern world has become so inter-related and so complex that most of us are “In Over Our Heads”3).

Dimitri Glazkov has put together an excellent summary of the concept of Adult Development (ADT). Dimitri points out that everyone knows children grow [mentally, as well as physically].  However, mental development doesn’t stop with physical maturity.  See Dimitri’s summary for a discussion of how this happens and what it looks like.  What the heck is Adult Development?

l(1) The Never Ending Quest: Dr. Clare W. Graves Explores Human Nature. by Clare W. Graves with Christopher C. Cowan & Natasha Todorovic, Eds.).

l(2) Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values. Beck, Don, and Christopher Cowan, Leadership, and Change, Blackwell, Oxford, 1996.

l(3) In Over our Heads: The mental demands of modern life. Kegan, R. (1994). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World , by Jennifer Garvey Berger