Why develop agility and adaptive capacity?

Many of the issues and trends facing organisations today are complex and, to a large degree, unpredictable in terms of their specific impact and timing.  They include climate change, globalisation, social media, big data, internet of things, rise of China and other industrialising countries, global financial crisis fallout, and the retirement of the baby boomer generation.  These issues and trends offer opportunities for many but also have the potential to disrupt existing business and organisational models through rapid and unpredictable change.  As a result, agility and adaptability are, and will increasingly be, critical organisational capabilities.

However, the current dominant approach for solving problems and realising opportunities in organisations is based on the underlying assumption that the context for the problem or opportunity is well described and amenable to analysis and prediction. This assumption, in turn, leads to an essentially linear ‘analyse-plan-implement’ approach to creating or responding to change.  In addition, this approach underpins almost all teaching in professions such as engineering and commerce.  By itself, the ‘analyse-plan-implement’ approach will not be sufficient to address the emergent and unpredictable issues and trends typified by the list above.  Nor will it be sufficient to create the level of agility and adaptive capability necessary to sustain organisational health and success.

The ‘analyse-plan-implement’ approach needs to be supplemented by capabilities, methods and techniques that iteratively create solutions and responses based on a Purpose-driven adaptive cycle of Design, Experimentation, Observation and Interpretation (which I will refer to as Adaptive Iteration).

AI Cycle - OIDE(P)

Our purpose at Discerning Action is to develop and demonstrate Adaptive Iteration as a practical approach for building agility and adaptive capacity in organisations, and to present techniques for and examples of its application.

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