How Are You Handling Complexity?

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I’d like to share with you some of the findings from IBM’s recent study, Capitalizing on Complexity: insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study. These are topics that all leaders should be addressing.

IBM’s study is based on face-to-face conversations with 1,541 CEOs general managers and senior public sector leaders worldwide. The research is part of a bi-annual study they’ve conducted over the last several years. The findings are profound and similar to many of the conversations I have with leaders. Let me share some highlights.

Traditionally, when asked how they respond to a competitive and economic environment unlike anything that has come before, these leaders have traditionally reported that “coping with change” was their most pressing challenge.

In 2010, the conversations identified a new primary challenge: complexity. CEOs reported that they operate in a world that is substantially more volatile, uncertain and complex. Incremental changes, many believe, are no longer sufficient.

Primary findings include:

• Today’s complexity is expected to rise; 79% anticipate greater complexity ahead. CEOs expect continued disruption in one form or the other. Increasingly interconnected economics, enterprises, societies and governments give rise to vast new opportunities. Significantly, more than half reported that they feel ill-prepared for today’s more complex environment.

• Creativity is the most important leadership quality. The standout CEOs practice and encourage experimentation and innovation throughout their organizations. These leaders expect to made deeper model changes to realize their strategies. To succeed, they take more calculated risks, find new ideas and keep innovating in how they lead and communicate. They recognize that continuous change is the norm. They avoid the old command-and-control style of leadership. 58% prefer to persuade and influence compared to just 17% that tend toward command and control.

• The most successful organizations co-create products and services with customers and integrate customers into core processes. They establish an unprecedented level of focus on customer, looking at customer satisfaction and other customer value metrics. They adopt new channels to engage and stay in tune with customers, and by drawing more insights from available data, successful CEOs make customer intimacy their number-one priority.

• Better performers manage complexity on behalf of their organizations, customers and partners. By simplifying operations and products and increasing dexterity to change the way they work, access resources and enter markets. Dexterous CEOs expect 20% more future revenue to come from new sources. The dexterous group was 19% more likely to view creativity as a top leadership quality.

What do you think? I look forward to discussing these issues with you – as part of my blog @, at our Vistage New York CEO groups, and in future Presentation Excellence webinars.