Chaordic Leadership: Understanding Complexity

Some say that understanding complexity is the principal science of the future. And just what is complexity? It’s “autocatalytic, nonlinear, complex adaptive systems.”68

Many believe that these systems—even life itself (remember the movie Jurassic Park and chaos theory?)—“arise and thrive on the edge of chaos with just enough order to give them pattern.”69

Hock coined the term “chaord” to describe what he means by “any self-organizing, self-governing, adaptive, nonlinear, complex organism, organization, community, or system, whether physical, biological, or social, the behavior of which harmoniously blends characteristics of both chaos and order.”70 His new term combines portions of the words chaos and order.

For Hock, organizations are chaordic and hence require a new form of leadership. He observes that an organization harmoniously blends conflicting characteristics such as competition and cooperation or theoretical and experiential learning. In some ways, this complex or chaordic blending is reminiscent of the intentional choice fostered in Collins and Porras’s Built to Last.71 Avoid the “tyranny of the ‘or.’ Instead, embrace the “genius of the ‘and.’ ”

Collins and Porras stress that visionary companies avoid choosing between two apparent paradoxes (e.g., change or stability, low cost or high quality, and so forth). Instead, organizations that are built to last welcome two “seemingly contradictory forces or ideas at the same time.” ...

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