THE BLOG

Is Complexity Causing Us to Work Differently?

20/08/2015 17:40 BST | Updated 20/08/2016 10:59 BST

Most of us can sense that the world is becoming more complex, although some may argue that it always has been this way, except we now have better tools to observe its complexity. Whilst there is truth in the latter, we can also see vast differences between our current reality and that of ten years ago. Firstly, ten years ago we were mainly analogue with no iphones, smart tech or even Google. Culturally, we were tied to one macro perspective as there were only a few places to receive updates on world events. Now social media and organisations like Anonymous give us more immediate and grassroot perspectives on newsworthy matters. This has made our world more transparent and connected, making it more difficult to keep a status quo.

Fourthly, we are seeing the rise of a new technology era, which is changing our infrastructure and the way we usually engage with the world. This is creating a gap we have yet to understand, which will bring difficult challenges. For example the way our attention works is changing due to our many tech devices, what does that mean to the way we learn or teach children that are digital natives?

Finally, our current complexity is a consequence of our actions and behaviours of the past 100 years. Our environmental, political, economic, and social systems are dismantling at a disturbing rate, leaving us with unprecedented problems. These problems are presenting us with a level of complexity that we have never faced before and they are testing our current mental and resource capabilities.

So, where does that leave us ? Well, one of the greatest biological attributes all living things have is adaptability. We will learn to do things differently and adapt. Starting with learning to work in new ways not just from a physical perspective but socially and cognitively.

Socially, we will have to learn to collaborate with vastly different people from a variety of industries. Diverse collaborations have existed among SME's and individuals for years, however we are now seeing big organisations coming together as well. They are coming together to solve complex problems like cancer, neurological diseases, or climate change as alone they do not have enough resources or intelligence to tackle these problems; we are coining it Big Collaboration.

For instance, in 2010 NASA came together with NIKE, The U.S. Agency for International Development, and The U.S. Department of State to create a platform called Launch. The purpose of the platform is to help create a more sustainable world. In science, Lucid AI is helping find a cure for cancer through bringing together 5 top research centres in the United States. This is the first time the data from these institutes will be shared and amalgamated, the aim is bring more insights and efficiency to cancer research in the States.

Complexity is changing us cognitively as well as it is forcing us to think differently about problem solving. Linear problems use a cause and effect mental models, however we cannot use them anymore as they don't work. We need to think more openly and flexibly. The other mental challenges is that working with people from diverse backgrounds requires us to learn new ways of conceptualising and communicating information. This giving birth to companies like Bracket, which are there to help companies manage collaboration and help us adapt to mentally working in a different way.

Finally, from a physical perspective, we will need to build smarter workplaces that will not only accommodate big multinationals but also aide their work through providing resources and specific tools. This is going above and beyond the current coworking movement, it needs something far smarter and sophisticated. The Crick in Kings Cross is one of these new types of spaces, not only will it host a research lab, it will also provide space where academia and multinationals can come together to collectively work on solving complex diseases.

Complexity is here to stay and will continue to change the we think, work, and innovate. The great thing is that there are already plenty of organisations helping us make the transition from AKCGlobal in London which provides tools for complex problem solving to The Conference in Sweden, which proclaims to be "the world's most human" conference has been designed to help people understand complexity through a multidisciplinary programme of events.