Leadership and Influence: The Manager as Coach, Nanny and Artificial DNA

Markets, companies and various forms of business organizations may all (we have argued) be usefully viewed through the lens of CAS -- the theory of complex adaptive systems. In this chapter, I address one fundamental issue that confronts both the theoretician and the business manager: the nature and opportunities for control and intervention in complex adaptive regimes. The problem is obvious enough. A complex adaptive system, as we have defined it, is soft assembled and largely self-organizing. This means that it is the emergent product of multiple, and often very heterogeneous, interacting factors and forces, and that the crucial interactions are not controlled and orchestrated by an overseeing executive, detailed program, or any other source of strict hierarchical control. There is thus a pressing problem -- are such systems strictly out of control and beyond the reach of useful governance? I shall argue that they are not. Such systems, though initially unfamiliar, can nonetheless be led, influenced and enabled in a variety of ways.I begin then, by clarifying the nature of the problem. What is it about complex adaptive systems that makes control and intervention so difficult? I then (section 2) pursue a biological example: the role of genetic factors in influencing mature form. This example yields some lessons that can be applied to business organizations (section 3). Section 4 pursues a speculative extension of these lessons, applying them to the task of understanding the role of tagging and explicit models in certain kinds of advanced system. There is a brief conclusion.
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