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Thriving On Uncertainty!

Since the 1950s global systems began to move into uncharted territory where organizations can no longer operate in silos. Organizations that operate with integrity and transparency have many inherent advantages in global issues plagued with uncertainty. In order to thrive on uncertainty we must anticipate and create change. Becoming pro-actively adaptive, that is, having the […]

Since the 1950s global systems began to move into uncharted territory where organizations can no longer operate in silos. Organizations that operate with integrity and transparency have many inherent advantages in global issues plagued with uncertainty.

In order to thrive on uncertainty we must anticipate and create change. Becoming pro-actively adaptive, that is, having the ability to anticipate and create change, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

To develop the ability to anticipate and create change, organizations must be fully based on Open Systems Design Principles (OSDP).

Only OSDP allow for the deployment of Tropophilia, i.e., the ability to thrive on uncertainty and go beyond resilience and antifragility, by having a culture driven by ideal-seeking individuals.

The “experts” say: “Culture drives business performance when it is aligned with strategy and the business environment.” Yes, everybody knows ‘Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast’!

What these “experts” don’t say is that culture is a property of structure.

Most “experts” and leaders do not understand that culture is driven by the organizational structure. In other words, structure eats culture for lunch!

The world has just encountered a major Gray Swan (i.e., Covid-19) and will continue to move faster and deeper into more Black-Swan domains, fat tails, and punctuated equilibria, AKA, singularities. These Black-Swan domains call for tropophilic organizational structures, i.e., structures that thrive on change and entropy, for these structures embody the essential components of the future enterprise in the face of uncertainty.

The ‘beauty’ of Black Swan events is not only that they explain almost everything in the world, from the successful/failed ideas and the dynamics of history, to elements of our own personal lives but, even more importantly, these events are clearly determining the future of humanity as you read this article.

How To Make The Most Of Black Swan Events?

The obvious answer is by becoming tropophilic, following Open Systems Design Principles, and to go beyond resilience and anti-fragility.

Tropophiliathe love for change, goes beyond antifragility and resilience because it goes hand in hand with the Entropy law and the Free-energy Principle, which, like gravity are unidirectional i.e., go from a state of order to one of disorder and minimize the prediction error, respectively.

Fragility loves calmness and predictability for it cannot absorb any change, shock, or disorder.

Robustness can absorb shocks and some changes but only to a certain point and does not benefit from them.

Resilience is one step ahead of robustness because it bounces back to a previous state before a fall but it does not benefit from shocks either and also remains reactive, thus, it is doomed.

Antifragility is ahead of robustness and resilience for it is not affected by shocks or changes but it does not necessarily benefit from them either.

Tropophila feeds on shocks and change and creates further change while minimizing free energy, it thrives on disruption, disorder, stressors, and entropy.

In a world moving within Black Swans, characterized by increasing uncertainty, disruptions, unpredictability, and powerful impacts, only tropophilic organizations with ideal-seeking individuals will be able to thrive.

Building Beautifully Tropophilic Organisations!

When a sudden random event hits you, it makes you stronger if it does not kill you, i.e., it helps you become tropophilic. In other words, it makes you more than antifragile and better able to deal efficiently with the impact of future improbables.

From biology, we know that heterosis (i.e., hybrid vigor or outbreeding enhancement of the offspring) comes about when the best traits of the parents are passed onto the offspring, as opposed to inbreeding.

A simple example of proactive heterosis or saliency is human vaccination. By taking a small hit now, through a vaccine, one can anticipate a major hit in the future by proactively building one’s immune system and thus one’s saliency, heterosis, betaphilia, and, eventually, tropophilia.

Tropophilia incorporates proactiveness and removes asymmetries and monocultures. It builds symmetries and heterosis. Ensures that the minority (with skin in the game) rules the game!

Tropophilia is built into an organization by the continuous directive correlation between the system (i.e., the organization) and its environment.

Tropophila further develops error-reducing-benefit-maximizing organizational structures where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Thus, ensuring the sustainability of the whole.

Most organizational efforts, if not all, are reactive practices based on signs and symptoms, such as employee disengagement, lack of empowerment, poor leadership, and conflicting assessments. Hence, they focus primarily on risks and vulnerabilities and not on strengths or capacities, let alone on tropophilia!

Low engagement and accountability (no skin in the game) cost the global economy trillions of dollars per year. The 2019 Elderman Trust Barometer reveals a sharp decline in engagement and accountability across all sectors of business, private and public, especially with millennials who abhor restrictive organizations without a higher purpose.

Research have shown that six human requirements must be optimally satisfied before people can be expected to intrinsically develop responsibility for and commitment to their tasks. These are the building blocks for designing tropophilic organizations and are at the heart of Participative Design, Employee Engagement, and a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

The first three requirements refer to the content of any job and are experienced differently from person to person. These first three criteria tend to be either too little (at lower levels) or too much (top management levels):

  1. Adequate responsibility and decision-making. The sense that the responsibility for the work done is with the one doing it and not above.
  2. Opportunity to learn continuously. Such learning is only possible when people are able to set goals that are reasonably challenging to them and get adequate feedback to learn and make corrections.
  3. Variety. People need adequate variety based on individual capabilities to avoid either boredom or fatigue.

The second three requirements relate to the social culture of the workplace and can never be too much:

  1. Mutual support and respect. Conditions that support common good over individual interest, getting help and respect from their coworkers; that don’t pit one against another.
  2. A sense that one’s own work meaningfully contributes to social welfare. This includes both the quality and the worth to society of the product/service, as well as the participant’s knowledge and understanding of the end use or purpose of the product or service.
  3. A desirable future. Put simply, a career path which will continue to allow for personal growth and increase in knowledge and skills.

You can waste valuable resources with “fun team-building games” that do nothing to change the organizational structure, or you can use those resources to change your organizational structure and watch your work culture flourish.

Team building is not about outdoor training but about organizational design and restructuring.

By restructuring the workplace based on Open Systems Design Principles, the six psychological criteria are met by default. Thus, achieving a positive directive correlation between the effectivities of your organization and its environmental affordances, transforming rhetoric on responsibility into positive and real action.

The result is a culture of trust, transparency, and integrity. Eventually, thus, becoming a Tropophilic organization!

The entire planet is witnessing right now how getting caught unprepared in a Black Swan Domain can be devastating.

Interestingly, living organisms can defy the misleading gloss on the second law of thermodynamics (Entropy), “They take disorganized bits and pieces of matter, and put them together in fiendishly complex and refined ways”. This is Tropophilia in action!

When you prepare your company to become Tropophilic, you no longer need to adapt to change, for you become change!

Only Tropophilic organizations have a sustainable future driven by ideal-seeking employees with a Day-1-Always attitude!

To the Health of Your Organization Thriving On Uncertainty!

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

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