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The intersection of technology and leadership

Performance is Emergent Behaviour

Mark’s tweets got me thinking when I tweeted a short number of responses back at him recetly. Unfortunately twitter isn’t a great place to have a long and well thought conversation and figured I would blog about it like Mark did.

The gist of the conversation seem to float around two positions that seem to be in conflict.

One position states: someone’s behaviour is determined by their environment (or system). This is certainly the view that John Seddon writes about a lot in his book, Freedom from Command and Control.

Most people read this position and (incorrectly) deduce, someone’s behaviour is solely determined by their environment (or system) therefore, it is best to focus on one of them.

Mark makes a great observation that people perform “differently” given they have the same environment. In an environment, sometimes those “differences” may be “better”.

To which I responded in the brevity required by 140 characters, “different strengths and interests at play. Emergent behaviour based on individual and environment.”

Emergent behaviour in this case can be seen as much more than just strengths and interests at play. People are complex systems and highly unpredictable. Each individual goes through many different experiences. Just as an example, everyone’s commute around London is different. Train failure? Tube strike? Traffic on the street? Walking to work? Everyone has different social structures – sleep deprivation from young kids, happiness from a child’s graduation, hard night out celebrating a friend’s send off. Even the weather has a huge impact on people (though everyone responds differently).

It’s rare that I think we are all in the “same” environment all the time.

Add in the topics you’re currently interested in, the events unfolding around you and regardless of the system, and the skills, strengths at play and ambitions, I hope you start to understand why everyone behaves differently. Of course some of those elements in the system have minor impact on the end result yet might explain why some perform “better” (i.e. differently) to others.

1 Comment

  1. Why do you think ‘most people’ deduce someone’s behaviour is ‘solely’ determined by their environment?

    My experience is that, generally, people fall into two categories:
    1. people who prioritise the environment because that’s where they have most likelihood of impact
    2. people who refuse to accept the importance of environment and think it’s somehow dehumanising to focus on the ‘system’

    Just so we’re clear, there’s (at least) two types of questions in blog posts:
    1. blah blah blah angry rhetorical nonsense
    2. genuine curiosity

    This is the second kind 🙂

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