The word organization comes from the Latin word organum, meaning “system or instrument.” You might wonder how one word could have such seemingly different meanings. An organization is a complex system. It works like an instrument that needs to be tuned to other instruments in the same orchestra. In the beginning of every classical orchestra concert (much to my daughter’s boredom, I often try to take her to Utah Symphony concerts), the concertmaster, the leader of the first-violin players, always plays the A note as a cue to all the musicians in the orchestra to tune their instruments to the same pitch, no doubt an effort to produce coherence. Members of a system must be tuned to each other to achieve its maximum potential.
In much the same recursive way, an organization’s response to change brings about another change in the environment and in people, which induces yet further change in the organization. Organizations are living systems made of people who are complex systems themselves. Members of an organization must be attuned to one other so that an optimal response can be given to signals from another, maximizing the constructive interference of positive energy that builds connection.
Interdependence and corporate responsibilities
This interdependent nature of complex systems highlights the importance of corporate social responsibility and doing business in a sustainable, ethical manner within the context of the system’s environment. An organization must be conscious of the environment in which it operates, as well as other subsystems that share the same ecosystem (such as customers, suppliers, and business partners), which in turn influence and are influenced by the organization.
PepsiCo has a corporate strategy consistent with this principle. It’s called “Performance with Purpose” and has three cornerstones: human sustainability for how to nourish people with healthier, more nutritious snacks; environmental sustainability to replenish the earth by conserving water and reducing waste and environmental impact; and talent sustainability to cherish and develop its people. Of course, it is focused on delivering financial results as the number one goal, but CEO Indra Nooyi clarifies that PepsiCo wants to achieve its goal “in a way that is sustainable over time and in a manner responsible and responsive to the needs of the community all of us share.” Its philosophy is encapsulated in its belief that doing the right thing for society is the right thing for business.
Another example is Overstock’s Worldstock Fair Trade. In the thirteen years since it began the program, Overstock, an online outlet megastore, has purchased more than $120 million worth of inventory directly from artisans living in very poor countries. By cutting out the middleman, 60 to 70 percent of the sales price is returned to the artisan, making a huge difference in the quality of the lives of the artisans, their families, and their communities. Overstock has used net profits generated from this program to fund philanthropic causes in several countries. Furthermore, Worldstock sends all items through carbon-neutral shipping, contributing to sustainability of the earth. We thrive when we create symbiosis with the environment, because we are interdependent with all other living organisms who share the same ecosystem with us. Corporate greed without regards to coevolution with others is not only bad for PR and brand image but produces suboptimal results for radical innovation.
About Dr. Sunnie Giles:
Dr. Sunnie Giles is a new generation expert who catalyzes organizations to produce radical innovation by harnessing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).
Her research reveals that applying concepts from neuroscience, complex systems approach, and quantum mechanics can produce radical innovation consistently. Her expertise is based on years as an executive with Accenture, IBM and Samsung. Her profound, science-backed insight is encapsulated in her leadership development program, Quantum Leadership.
An advisor to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, she also is a sought-after speaker and expert source, having been quoted in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc.
Dr. Giles’ latest book, The New Science of Radical Innovation, provides a clear process for radical innovation that produces 10x improvements and has been endorsed prominent industry leaders such as Jonathan Rosenberg, Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Sean Covey.
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