6 Principles to Create an Adaptive Organization (Reeves)

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Eugene James
Manager, Switzerland

6 Principles to Create an Adaptive Organization (Reeves)

According to Reeves, Lewin and Ueda, companies - similar to living organisms - are "COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS". They evolve in a complex manner, wherein individuals contribute towards shaping and altering the system. In turn, the system leads individual entities to be adaptive to changes, which in fact is the only way to survive.
Accordingly, leaders must manage the complex process of change, in view of guaranteeing the survival of the firm and the development of staff.
The authors draw up a range of six principles that can assist leaders in managing complexity:
  1. BOLSTER (~SUPPORT) DIVERSITY: Ensure that the company gathers a strong mix of "people, ideas & endeavors". Recruit staff from different backgrounds. Encourage the staff to experiment new ideas.
  2. COMPARTMENTALIZE: Compartmentalize business units to ensure a degree of independence from the overall system. This prevents external shocks from adversely affecting the individual businesses.
  3. BUILD DUPLICATION within operations, for instance with respect to suppliers. This ensures that disruption of one unit does not bring the whole system to a grinding halt.
  4. BE PREPARED TO TACKLE UNCERTAINTY: Monitor what rivals, especially startups, are up to. Conceive ways to address areas of weaknesses where rivals can outperform your business.
  5. DEVELOP FEEDBACK MECHANISMS: Establish feedback methods between staff & company procedures. For example, leaders can enhance collaboration with staff through field visits and in turn, they are able to integrate insights into novel strategies.
  6. PROMOTE MUTUAL SUPPORT: Individual staff must be encouraged to work in the best interest of the organization, while leaders should promote staff well being and offer incentives.
⇒ Do you agree with these principles? How do you apply them in practice?
Source: Martin Reeves, Simon Levin, Daichi Ueda (2016) "The Biology of Corporate Survival" Harvard Business Review.


Dr. Anil Kumar Singh
Lecturer, India

Benefits of Principles of Adaptive Organizations

These principles are really important to create a supportive internal environment. On top of that, ... Sign up

Consultant, France

Comments on 4 Principles, a 7th?

Hello, 1. Diversity OK for the competences & styles; crossed competences/experience to be promoted ... Sign up

Alexey Timoshek
Russian Federation

Compartmentalizing Adaptive Organizations

The "Compartmentalize" point makes a lot of sense, from my point of view. Each BU becomes a "company... Sign up

Agnes Kamau
Analyst, Kenya

Organization Principles to Manage Complexity

I totally agree and support all the six principles because with diversity you get different ideas an... Sign up

Bill Boynton
Teacher, United States

Dialogue for Understanding for Adaptive Organizations

There is another principle that would also add significant opportunity for any organization adapting... Sign up

Paramathmuni srinivas Kumar

5 Values for Organizational Adaptability

COURAGE: Enabling people to take decisions in the event of change by taking different view points... Sign up

Hussain Abdulla
Entrepreneur, Bahrain

The Main Principal to Establish an Adaptive Organization

I think the SUPPORT FROM LEADERS is the main principle to achieve the goals of an adaptive organizat... Sign up

ld wilson
Consultant, United States

Duplication Leads to more Complexity

Building duplication does not decrease complexity; it increases it. It does minimize risk, but not c... Sign up

Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Duplication Can Increase Adaptability of an Organization

@Ld wilson: Good point. Note however that Reeves c.s. do not focus on decreasing complexity, but on ... Sign up

ld wilson
Consultant, United States

At what Cost??????

@Jaap de Jonge (Editor): Redundancy is expensive and managing additional systems takes time and effo... Sign up

Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

The Need to Limit Organizational Duplication

@Ld wilson: I agree there are costs involved with organizational duplication and also it makes the o... Sign up

Ger de Waard
Management Consultant, Netherlands

Strategies to Employ in Order to Become an Adaptive Organization

I was intriged by the chameleon picture, but I now understand that a chameleon like organization mus... Sign up


Problems with Compartmentalizing

Hello Eugene, just like the @problem or disadvantage of Duplication: (increase of cost and complexi... Sign up

Gregory Johnson
Coach, United States

Entrepreneurial Environment

I agree with Mr. de Jonge and Mr. de Waard to the extent of creating the mindset of an entrepreneur ... Sign up


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