This article looks at leadership adaptability from a systems perspective…How do organizational systems adapt, and how can we as leaders enable our organizational systems to adapt and grow?  It is submitted by Christy Holland, Business leader in Strategy Development, Execution and Transformation.

In the 1960’s Family System’s therapists promoted a theory which stated that each family member was part of an inter-connected system. Any change in one member of the system, would cause a ripple effect throughout the entire system. As the ripple made its way through the system, members within the system became uncomfortable and would direct their persuasive power get the person to “Change Back.” These theorists discovered that families rejected both “positive” and “negative” changes with the same fervor because what they wanted was homeostasis. Members interpreted the therapeutic advancements of one family member as a threat to the family’s survival. Consequently, though perhaps unknowingly, the system would reject the potential to thrive.

Systems theorists saw the similarities between the work organization and family systems.  People in the workplace also desire to predict behavior and feel stress when people do not behave in accordance with their role. When someone behaves in a way we do not expect, we frequently say that are “acting out of character” or “throwing us a curve ball” or coming at us “from out of nowhere.” When we make these statements, they are not meant as a compliment. We are telling the person to “Change Back” and follow the rules of engagement.

So how do we, in our organizational systems, allow the turbulence of a new idea among our teams and look for ways to adapt and grow?

We know that “Change Back” mentalities will ensure extinction rather than growth, and we encourage innovation as a strategy for success. Those who thrive are collaborating across the company, utilizing technology to improve processes, and looking for new ideas in the customer experience. Our organizational systems can withstand change and the ripple can be positive. Innovation depends on sustaining the turbulence of change.  It demands we let go of the fear of uncertainty and when we hear a new idea, say “Yes and…” to build on that idea instead of persuading someone to “Change Back.”