December 17, 2020

Order without control

“Improvisation is what life does.  Nothing living, from a bacterium to a blue whale, has a script for their life.  This includes you.  Somehow or other every living being copes with untold complexity without a plan, and always has.” Robert Poynton ‘DO/IMPROVISE’

‘The counter argument to that’, my husband replies, ‘is that these are the result of millions of generations of evolution and dead-ends.   You and I don’t have that much time, which is why we plan and design’.

I agree, and to be fair, Poynton isn’t recommending that we improvise our way through life and business (although it would be interesting to explore how far we could go with that, like lilies of the field). And living things aren’t improvising randomly.   That ‘somehow or other’ is underpinned by a set of simple rules for responding to things you can’t control.  The driver is a process that leads to a single outcome, reproduction.   The result is ‘order without control’, a self-organising system for delivering an outcome.

But without the capacity to improvise, all you have is a machine.  Inflexible, slow to change and ultimately fragile.

You don’t need to build a business as a machine, with every thing designed precisely down to the nth degree.  Get the driver right, then let improvisation keep it relevant.   Create a process for delivering the right customer experience, driven by your unique Promise of Value.  Use the process as a framework for action, that empowers your people to see the offer in the unexpected or exceptional and act accordingly.

The discipline that makes daring possible leads to order without control and a business that truly lives.

Forever if you want it to.