To build a legacy that will truly last, we need consistency of self-identification in addition to experimentation. This takes balance. An over-reactive system may adapt quickly, but it will fail to scale in complexity.
A complex system too rigorous in its resistance to change, cutting down strange attractors and emergent organic leadership that opposes its orthodoxy, will find itself maladaptive. Such a system, if made of relatively independent actors, will produce schisms, splits, and offshoots due to the excessive fundamentalism of its self-identification process. Instead, we systems builders want the robustness, strength, and adaptiveness that results from the tension between tradition-rooted cultivated practices versus the spontaneous pursuit of fashion and buzz. This tension is healthy so long as it drives the continuous experimentation engine of the organization, allowing signals to emerge and backpropogating message errors. In other words, we should expect “just enough” sibling rivalry at any level of the organization. We should expect triangulation and escalation of signaling.
Experimentation requires tension, but discovery requires due process – the fair treatment of both sides in a conflict resolution. The essential role of the systems builder is the promotion of self-awareness. A system unable to recognize its own constructs and correct them is unable to change. We see all too often that power need not be taken from someone so long as they believe they are powerless. Similarly, an executive order is rarely an effective mechanism for introducing lasting adaptation, but it can be quite effective as a signal for the system self-organize against.
A cultivator of adaptive systems does not generate unrealistic and unreasonable new rules in an effort to artificially push the system in a new direction; rather, we make the existing rules of interaction and exchange visible and known equally. Where the rules allow differentiation, we make the logic behind such distinctions known, trusting that an adaptive system will correct itself. We do not employ attrition warfare – one ideological information system against another – instead we maneuver against the broken logic of the enemy system. In this way, organic leadership does not pursue the wholesale destruction of an opposing nation, religion, economic institution, or political party. This is folly, as the diminishing returns of attrition warfare depletes energy, resources, and public support. Those are people on the other side of our wars, after all, and our monstrosities in the pursuit of victory easily turn public support against us.
Instead, wherever there is differentiation the systems builder ensures there is equal access to knowledge of the logic behind apparent unfairness. We encourage open rebellion and take even the least realistic signal seriously, as this is preferable to letting the system stagnate while an insurgency is festering behind closed doors.
To maintain our persistence, to balance tradition and stability with experimentation and responsiveness, we must above all ensure due process and the faith of the public that due process provides fair treatment in any conflict at each level of the system. It is decentralization of local process enforcement that allows systems to experiment. Equal access to escalation of justice will resolve critical reinterpretations. We do not need, as a systems-builder within an overarching complex adaptive system, to control the rebellion of progressives and early adopters nor the backward quasi-bigotry of instinctually late adopters. We must only ensure the system is healthy enough to re-inform itself based on the outliers, trends, and signals.