Simple Habits for Complex Times - Book Summary

Jennifer Garvey Berger , Keith Johnston



When faced with complex challenges or uncertain outcomes, many leaders believe that if they are smart enough, work hard enough, or turn to the best management tools, they will be able to find the right answer, predict and plan for the future, and break down tasks to produce controllable results. But what are leaders to do when this isn't the case?

Rather than offering one-size-fits-all tips and tricks drawn from the realm of business as usual, Simple Habits for Complex Times provides three integral practices that enable leaders to navigate the unknown. By taking multiple perspectives, asking different questions, and seeing more of their system, leaders can better understand themselves, their roles, and the world around them.

They can become more nimble, respond with agility, and guide their organizations to thrive in an ever-shifting business landscape. The more leaders use these simple habits, the more they enhance their performance and solve increasingly common, sticky business issues with greater acumen. Whether in large or small organizations, in government or the private sector, in the U.S. or overseas, leaders will turn to this book as a companion that helps them grow into the best version of themselves.


What will you learn from this book


  1. Adaptability over predictability: In complex environments, where change is constant and unpredictable, adaptability becomes more valuable than rigid adherence to plans or routines. Cultivating the ability to adapt to changing circumstances allows individuals and organizations to thrive amidst uncertainty.

  2. Sense-making in complexity: Rather than seeking definitive answers or solutions, it's essential to embrace ambiguity and engage in ongoing sense-making processes. By exploring different perspectives and reframing problems, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of complex situations.

  3. Diverse perspectives: Complexity requires engaging with diverse perspectives and collaborating across different viewpoints. Embracing diversity of thought fosters innovation and creativity, enabling more effective problem-solving in complex environments.

  4. Experimentation and learning: Adopting a mindset of experimentation and continuous learning is crucial for adapting to complexity. By testing hypotheses, embracing failure as a learning opportunity, and iterating on ideas, individuals can uncover new insights and solutions.

  5. Building resilience: Resilience is the capacity to bounce back from adversity and navigate challenges with strength and flexibility. Developing resilience involves cultivating self-awareness, fostering supportive relationships, and practicing self-care to sustain well-being in the face of complexity.

  6. Cultivating curiosity: Curiosity is a powerful antidote to certainty in complex times. By approaching situations with an open mind and a willingness to explore, individuals can uncover new possibilities and solutions that may not be immediately apparent.

  7. Sense of purpose: Clarifying one's sense of purpose and values provides a guiding compass in navigating complexity. Aligning actions with purpose fosters a sense of meaning and direction, helping individuals prioritize what matters most amidst competing demands.

  8. Embracing paradox: Complexity often involves navigating paradoxical tensions and competing priorities. Embracing paradox means holding multiple perspectives simultaneously and recognizing that opposing forces can coexist and even complement each other.

  9. Adaptive leadership: Adaptive leadership involves leading through uncertainty and ambiguity by empowering others, fostering collaboration, and embracing change. Adaptive leaders cultivate a culture of learning and experimentation, enabling their teams to thrive in complex environments.

  10. Mindfulness and reflection: Cultivating mindfulness and engaging in regular reflection practices help individuals navigate complexity with greater clarity and intentionality. By pausing to observe and reflect on their experiences, individuals can make more informed decisions and respond effectively to complexity.

Language English
No of pages 20
Book Publisher i-Read Publications
Published Date 24 Apr 2024

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