Last week i shared an initial sketch of a framework around ‘dual paradigms of disruption’: the notion is that we are seeing two aspects of change, the first being disruption within our constructed systems (organisations), and the second being disruption of our underlying ecosystem (the context of the Social Age). I’ve been redrawing that frame, from the initial sketch, into something more considered, and sharing that today.
The ‘Known Ecosystem’ represents the world we know, and understand. ‘Known Challenges’ are those that we are familiar with, and towards which we have codified the formal strength of our organisations. So the top right quadrant represents our known space: organisations typically are effective and optimised in this space, or know how to work towards it. This space represents typical competition, opportunity, and change.
Beneath this, in the lower right hand quadrant, we are still within the ‘Known Ecosystem’, but facing unknown challenges. This is the typical space of the so called ‘Black Swan’, the ‘Unknown Unknowns’. Within the known ecosystem, but facing unknown challenges, we may be ineffective. The codified strength that we have is codified to known challenges. It may lack the ability to act effectively against unknown ones, or our ‘known’ strength may be an active weakness. But worse, we may lack the ‘sense making’ capability to even know what is happening. It’s this aspect that i describe by considering the organisation to be ‘Sub Optimised’. We are not simply poorly adapted, we are actively badly adapted. This is true for many organisations with traditional, codified, strength, who are actively resistant to change, actively hostile to new voices. In this illustration, i’ve called them ‘Blind Swans’, partly because i want to avoid one quadrant being ‘black’, and partly to reinforce that it is their lack of ‘visibility’ that leads to their failure.
On the left, at the bottom, we are in ‘Unknown Ecosystem’, facing ‘Unknown Challenge’, which is really a point of failure: we have either failed, or are totally disrupted. At this point, it’s too late to do much about it. Or possibly it is a space for radical exploratory cultures.
Top right is ‘Known Challenge’, but in an ‘Unknown Ecosystem’, and this is almost the most interesting quadrant of all: it’s where many of our organisations sit. They understand the need to change, and may well understand how they think that they should change (but check out this recent writing on ‘Innovation’ on that point), but they lack understanding of the ecosystem that change occurs within. The context of this is the Social Age: evolved structures of power, democratisation of technology, rise of connected communities, evolved storytelling etc. Broad ecosystem changes. This leave us with ‘Weak Swans’, organisations that have their traditional strength, but are weakened by their lack of understanding of the new world.
Organisations must adapt, in different ways, depending upon which space they are in.
‘Known Change’ in ‘Unknown Ecosystem’ means a need for Social Leadership, and the creation of strong, interconnected, ‘sense making’ communities, to figure out the new space. And it requires rapid change ability: true agility, the ability to rapidly prototype and learn to thrive in this new space.
For ‘Unknown Challenge’ in ‘Known Ecosystem’, we need ability to hold ambiguity in strongly kinetic systems. We need evolved Organisational Design. We need to build structures that are, themselves, reconfigurable.
A Socially Dynamic Organisation would exist in the top right quadrant, whilst a Resistant one may sit bottom left. The real challenge lies for those who fall across the other two spaces: facing known, and unknown challenge, and doing so within an ecosystem that they do not fully understand, or just understand today, without insight or vision of continuous change.