This blog is an exploration of business, organizational, and theoretical topics I am fascinated about: living systems and the related theories of complexity, chaos and evolutionary biology, organizational change, adaptive leadership, sustainability, strategy, and innovation are only but a few of the topics I may cover. While this is a broad and somewhat ambitious set of topics, my goal in exploring them is very straightforward: to provide individuals, groups, and organizations a better understanding of how they can transform themselves, adapt to change, and bring more consciousness into all endeavors.
For the time being, I have to confess that my main objective is to use the process of writing as a means to deepen my understanding of those topics. While I love theory, my interest is in how theory informs practice and vice versa. So, my intent is to bring theoretical concepts to a level that can be understood by anyone. I do hope that you will enjoy the reading and that you will find the posts interesting and useful. I encourage you to engage in the conversation and explore with me all these fascinating fields.
In this first post, let me tell you a little bit about myself and how I came to be interested in the topics I just mentioned. (For a more complete and linear description of my intellectual and professional journey, please refer to my biography.)
It has been a little more than 14 years since I moved to the U.S. from my native country, France. While I was trained as an architect, destiny seemed to have decided that I would not practice architecture. A Masters of Science in the Department of Architecture at UC Berkeley shifted my career toward communication technologies. For about 10 years, I worked for Bechtel Corporation, one of the largest engineering and construction organizations in the world, deploying web-based tools to support project team collaboration and knowledge management. Since my background is not technical per se, my interest has always been centered on the understanding of the synergy between social and technical systems. The critical questions I addressed were how to help groups and organizations align their work processes to emerging technologies and, what new functional requirements should we develop for technology to better support work activities.
During my tenure at Bechtel I became increasingly concerned with the organizational issues associated with work process performance and those organizational issues became central to my Ph.D. dissertation. Eventually, I came to the understanding that organizations are living systems and that, like living systems, they operate in a very complex and uncertain environment. Living systems’ survival depends on their ability to adapt to change. The question is: what are the external forces as well as the internal organizational characteristics that influence a system’s ability to adapt and evolve over time? To answer this question I investigated fascinating theoretical fields including living systems theory, complexity and chaos theories, evolutional biology, and cognitive science among others. My doctorate dissertation, which I completed in 2005 was titled: “Managing Architectural /Engineering/Construction (AEC) Project Organizations at the edge of Chaos: An Analysis of AEC Project Adaptive Capacity from a Living Systems Perspective.”
My Ph.D. research not only broadened my theoretical understanding but it also impacted me, very personally. Indeed, since then, I have no longer seen the world with the same eyes. My values and mental models have shifted. To use Thomas Kuhn’s terminology in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” I have gone through a “paradigm shift.” Sustainability has become a personal as well as professional focus and I am currently investigating how to re-orient my career toward facilitating organizational transformation and change and where to apply my knowledge and skills to the service of organizations and individuals taking a leadership role toward more sustainable and conscious practices.
I look forward to the next steps in the journey toward fulfilling my personal purpose.
Until next time,
Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The University of Chicago Press.