Stumble, Live and Work Effectively

How we stumble effectively

Dealing with volatility and uncertainty is rapidly becoming the number one challenge of corporate life. We live in a world where all things are intricately related. And one thing here may have a huge effect there. For progress it is not enough to entirely trust our ability to make rational decisions. Because we simply cannot see every thing coming that is impacting our work and life. The more complex the system the more likely the outcome is surprising and hidden from our rational understanding. A manufacturing process is complex but not so complex as the interdependent mesh of relationships of the people working there.

Life is not a pattern of incremental change; our stumbling forward and backwards is the most effective way to live. Dr. Eliat Aram, CEO Tavistock Institute


It feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? You achieve something after much effort and the next day you discover that it was neither necessary nor useful. ‘Stumbling as an effective way to live,’ how does this thought help us to work purposefully? A recent study has shown that training people to fall, helps them to stay upright. On a more spiritual level, we are sometimes too attached to ideas. Training to hold thoughts lightly, allows us to be more adaptive, agile and resilient. We should cherish stumbling, discard ideas when they are irrelevant and impede growth. This is the basis of concepts like Agile and Business Model Canvas.

As an artist I feel this dynamic is quite natural, but to trust it fully is difficult for my rational mind too. We just like it when causes have effects. And when outcomes can be predicted. But we know that in complex adaptive systems the causes are there, but cannot be traced back to one root. There are multiple causes influencing each other in unexpected way. Nor can future effects in these systems be calculated with any degree of certainty. We can’t make it exactly the way we want it. We can only train to fall. So, in complex systems, stumbling is the most effective way forward. To think otherwise is to be mistaken.

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Jouke Kruijer

Jouke Kruijer