Mind Traps: When Simple Stories Don’t Work In A Complex World

Parker first met Jennifer a decade ago and has always valued her friendship, guidance, and support. When starting SHIFT, she was a great source encouragement, even referring one of our first interns, her brilliant daughter, Naomi. Parker had the rare pleasure of sitting down for an uninterrupted hour with Jennifer to dig into theories on complexity and change, as well as the process of writing accessible books for a wide range of readers.

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Mind Traps: When Simple Stories Don’t Work In A Complex World

Parker and Jennifer and the ultimate oxymoron: How to simplify complexity?

In my new role as CEO of SHIFT, I’m constantly thinking about team performance.

Here's what stands out to me from my conversation with Jennifer:

Trickle down complexity: Complex problems used to be the purview of senior leaders. Yet as complexity increases, complex problems are being pushed further down through organizations. This means leaders must make sure everyone is equipped to manage complexity.

Personal complexity: In the past, people more or less knew what the future looked like; it would be reasonably similar to their parents’ lives. That no longer holds true. People's journeys are now marked by entirely new and unfamiliar experiences, and all too often, they find themselves unprepared.

‘Working out’ our unpredictability muscle: Humans are wired to love predictability. We need to consciously work on our ability to handle the unexpected.

Shame and failure: Failure is such an important learning tool. Unfortunately, the shame we often feel when we fail obstructs our ability to learn in these moments. Instead we should work toward taking responsibility for our failures without shame.

Criticality of curiousness: It’s easy for us to be too lazy to be curious about what is going on with our interactions with others. We tell ourselves simple stories to explain those interactions and forget to question underlying feelings and motivations, ultimately limiting our ability to connect in a productive way.

Thanks to Jennifer for this enlightening and fun conversation!

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