Tippy Organizations and Leadership: Engaging an Organizational World of Vulnerability

William Bergquist December 5, 2012 0
Tippy Organizations and Leadership: Engaging an Organizational World of Vulnerability

In the world of 21st Century organizations we experience profound vulnerability—in large part because the environment both inside and outside the organization is filled with complexity, unpredictability and turbulence (a confluence of order and chaos). This makes organizations very tippy and organizational leadership very challenging. Malcolm Gladwell’s book on tipping points proved to be very popular and widely-read in large part because we all experience this tippy vulnerability in our organizational life (and perhaps often in our personal life). I will offer several perspectives on this tippy vulnerability, borrowing from both evolutionary biology and topology. I also make use of the emerging and critically important interdisciplinary study of complex systems. In the use of concepts from these diverse fields, I will trace out specific implications for contemporary leaders and those who coach these leaders.  I begin with the relationship between evolution and innovation (the latter being one of the major sources of tippy vulnerability in contemporary organizations).

Evolution and Innovation

In the field of biology there is a classic (sometimes controversial) mathematical model called the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium which provides some rich insight for not only those interested in evolutionary change, but also those who are coaching leaders facing the challenge of introducing innovation and change in their organization.  The Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium model works backwards with regard to evolutionary change—it is about the five key assumptions that lead to NON-change in terms of biological evolution.

The first assumption is that there are no mutations in a population. This would mean that all of the genes that form the basis of all life forms are the same for all members of one species. There is no room, in other words, for variations or mistakes. The second assumption is that any specific population is isolated. Individual members of a specific population (community) can’t migrate into or emigrate out of that specific community. The members of any species within a specific community can only breed with individuals from the same community.

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