Science and Leadership for the Future: Leadership

Ross Dawson recently gave a keynote address on Science and Leadership for the Future to a small group of major media and corporate clients of New Scientist magazine.

Given the context, he was able to delve a little deeper into the issues than he would for most audiences. The video of his presentation was sliced into a number of brief segments. Below is the video of the section of his presentation on Leadership. Please click here to view the complete presentation.

Full Transcription: Science and Leadership for the Future – Leadership

Ross Dawson:

So the law of requisite variety comes from Ashby Ross in the field of cybernetics and he proposed the idea that any system only has any choice essentially if it is at least as flexible as its environment. So any individual, any organization is only really able to control its destiny if it has as much flexibility as its environment. Now this is very difficult to achieve in an extraordinarily fast moving world, yet this is what is required to be able to have that adaptability, have that flexibility to be able to respond to change.

The lean start-up is one of the very en vogue words and phrases today. So start-ups today are essentially taking a scientific methodology to what they do. They are forming hypotheses, building experiments which will test for that, and getting some empirical evidence of their hypotheses and then changing their hypotheses as a result and trying to design this where this feedback loop happens within a day or hopefully less. I think this is quite a counterpoint to traditional large organization management and there are a number of reasons why that can be harder in a large organization context. Yet that scientific methodology and again, if we look at science in the past to connected science of today…connected science of today means these kinds of experiments – the evidence, the propagation of those, and the modification of the hypotheses and the new experiments as a result can happen far, far faster than ever before.

Now we’re seeing that in the business world where exactly that same idea of this feedback loop between hypothesis, experiment, and feedback on that, can happen extraordinarily fast. So organizations need to be able to organize essentially around embedding this scientific methodology inside their organizations. The difference between science and business in this domain is science is using this methodology to uncover the truth; in business we’re using this methodology to make money, and which does lead to some slight variations, but essentially it comes back to this underlying scientific methodology being applied. In an interconnected world, this becomes the foundation for how organizations advance themselves and all of this being applied. So the leaders in this world are not just those who have been able to access all of the scientific and technological information and being able to process that and make better decisions as a result, but to effectively communicate that to others, to open minds, to enrich the mental models of those around them inside their organizations, their partner organizations. This communication, the scanning and the processing and communication of these insights into the future is what drives better results.

So we’ve looked at some of the underlying shifts in the changing creating world, some of the ways in which we can think in a structured way about the future in trends and uncertainties and wild cards. We’ve looked at the science of networks and a couple of domains in which technology is being applied in terms of interfaces and robotics. We found some of the ways in which strategy can be brought out of these ways of thinking about the future, and finally in leadership. As in this illustration of the Crab Nebula, I think that you will see that the opportunities are absolutely going to explode moving forward. Now today, we have access through New Scientist to the insights around the leading edge of science and technology which gives us the possibility to be able to literally lead our companies, our society, and humanity leading forward. Thank you.


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