The Paradox of Going Slow to Create Learning and Change

harold-01Over the past 35 years from both a consulting and teaching perspective I have observed that these two professions have altered their focus from prescriptive problem solving to one that incorporates building new skills that address the challenges of working within complex dynamic systems. With quantum increases in both the amount and velocity of information generated by new technologies, it’s become more difficult to create probability models that rely upon historical correlations. Rather than relying on prior experiences that no longer reflect conditions that have rapidly morphed, we are now designing learning approaches that foster adaption and reconfiguration.


When incorporating a learning model whose drivers are probing, reflecting, and adjusting, there are some counter-intuitive approaches that produce better results. The first thing to resist is becoming caught up in the frenetic activity of adapting to rapid change. Instead of speeding up in order to get out in front of what appears to be taking place, it’s important to build the discipline of slowing down in order to create the clearest picture of what you are facing. Avoid generalizations with their broad-based assumptions, and look for activities that act as outliers. This process of deconstruction allows you to work through the predisposition of relying on prior understandings of how things once worked. It avoids the tendencies to look for similarities that are reflections of previous conditions.


This approach rejects the traditional cyclical planning orientation of going from a stable system to one of significant organizational reconfiguration and then returning to a re-invigorated stable model. Instead, by embracing an ongoing stream of emergent opportunities that become evident as the organization maintains a constant vigilance on incorporating multiple adaptions and innovations into its core guidance system, it strives to embrace a day to day adaptive approach. Emergence is driven by engaging all of the significant players in team-driven activities that learn how to benefit from collaborating throughout the entire system. CMS is committed to helping organizations and individuals develop and refine the skill sets that are necessary to make this emergent process both successful and meaningful. This is not a process that you can roll out. Rather, it’s an orientation toward learning that incorporates the subtlety and nuances of each individual and system.

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