John Seddon [video]:: Target Obsession Disorder laid bare.


John Seddon explains why targets make organisations worse and controlling costs makes costs higher. If you’re in management or in executive leadership you desperately need to watch this and know it, understand it and listen to it. For the benefit of yourself, those around you and those that interact with you business.

John breaks out why targets make organisations worse and controlling, or managing costs, actually makes them higher. He explains, in a rather entertaining way, why the public sector along with the private sector is doing horribly compared to what they should be doing…a bi-product of  ‘conventional ignorance’.

This elegant dissection of the organisational madness that pervades our culture was given at the 2009 conference of the Human Givens Institute.

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‘Systems Thinking’ isn’t about change for change’s sake and if/WHEN someone tells you that it is I would encourage you to question their motivation and knowledge!

John Wenger explains WHY in this, typically well-crafted and informative article…

quantum shifting

A poll in October of 2011 put the approval rating of the US Congress at just 9%.  When Rasmussen pollsters asked Americans if they approved of the US going communist, a full 11% said they were OK with that; two points ahead of Congress.  To put that into context, during Watergate Richard Nixon’s approval rating was 24%. BP, during the Gulf oil spill, hit 16 %.

To me, these figures illustrate the erosion of trust in those who set out to lead us and, I suspect, an erosion of faith in the systems that puts those leaders there.  It’s not just a crisis of democracy, it’s a much wider crisis of leadership: in government, in business, in churches.  The expenses scandal in the UK.  Widespread sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and covered up by bishops.  Credit ratings agencies giving the thumbs up to banking systems at the heart…

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Insurance Industry:: Innovation, transformation or failure


If you have visited my blog before you will already know that I have spent some considerable time researching and commenting upon a wide of topics that, although many within insurance fail to see the connection, are related directly related to the insurance industry.

In truth, my work was initially prompted by concerns (a deep dissatisfaction may be more appropriate!) about how the insurance (particularly broking) operated: structure; culture; regulation; remuneration levels; use of IT; cover; pricing of RISK. It was only as I delved deeper into the subject matter, a form of ‘root cause analysis’ [RCA] – causality being particularly pertinent to insurance! – that I came to fully appreciate HOW DANGEROUSLY LIMITED the understanding and application of a probability-based assessment of risk truly was. Especially when the business environment has, fundamentally and irrevocably, changed.

If a future event will take place, it will do so irrespective of the probability that we may have attached to it. If an extremely  unlikely event will happen, it’s probability of occurrence is already 100%

Having been introduced to Complexity (by Dr Jacek Marczyk, Founder of Ontonix srl) and it’s relationship to risk and uncertainty my RCA led me to investigate from a (more rigorous) scientific and mathematical perspective. Eventually into the realm of the behaviour of Complex Systems and, inevitably, to Systems Thinking. Gradually, the understanding, that comes from viewing life and work through the Systems lens, revealed that much of what is wrong with Financial Services stems from unnatural interventions.

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The certainty of uncertainty


When the business of a business is pretty predictable, as it was in the Industrial era, there is less need to focus on resilience or responsiveness. In the old days, business could undertake planning exercises and be reasonably safe in the knowledge that the functioning of the business would be able to successfully execute its plans and that the environment would not impinge too greatly on those plans. In the modern era where knowledge is “a core commodity and the rapid production of knowledge and innovation is critical to organisational survival” (Bettis and Hitt, 1995, ‘The new competitive landscape’), business needs to get to grips with the reality of uncertainty and decreasing forecastability. Businesses also need to remember that they are living systems within wider living systems. Global environmental, political, economic and financial challenges all impact on a business’s ability to succeed.

quantum shifting

Sometimes you read something that really strikes a chord.  I recently saw this quote from Kurt Vonnegut:  “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”  In other times, I would read this and it would simply seem like a poetic truism, but I’m currently experiencing a number of shifts in my personal situation which made me read that quote as if it was written just for me.  These shifts are creating a fair amount of uncertainty and bringing up all the associated emotions that go with it.  In times like this, it is useful for me to remember that trying to control what is going on in my world will not lead to the best outcomes and in fact, that I need to call on the kind of resources that will best keep me going in times of uncertainty.  These resources, in…

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World Economic Forum:: New Models of Leadership–John Maeda


John Maeda is President of the Rhode Island School of Design and is a Member of the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership.

As far as I can recall, I first came across the name of John Maeda from this beautifully succinct quote:

“Openness simplifies complexity”

A decent introduction to anyone, I think you’ll agree. Particularly when you have spent years trying to convey the need for and merits of TRANSPARENCY; the costs associated with AMBIGUITY and risks created by excessive COMPLEXITY.

John Maeda is President of the Rhode Island School of Design and is a Member of the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership.

Discussions this year from the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership culminated in a white paper, which describes a set of competencies for leaders in the 21st century. A central thesis of our work is the need for leaders to be agile in what are increasingly volatile and complex times.

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