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Simple Habits for Complex Times

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Simple Habits for Complex Times

Powerful Practices for Leaders

Stanford UP,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

A challenging but convincing prescription for survival in a disruptive, volatile and uncertain world.

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Consultants Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston present a challenging series of recommendations that will make you think until it hurts. They emphasize that survival and success in a VUCA world – one with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – means you have to do what is difficult and often counterintuitive. Read and digest each chapter, reflect on it, discuss it and then move on to the next. In implementing the authors’ ideas, follow their advice: Gather varied perspectives, listen, experiment, learn, adjust and repeat. They show you how to work your way toward an agile, alert and ever-adapting organization.


Leaders have grappled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) for millennia, but circumstances differ today.

Today, unlimited information and data confront leaders, much of it flowing in real time and changing by the minute. Leaders must consider more factors than they can predict by relying on the past. Consider what is possible in an unknown future.

Evolution made people pretty good at making decisions according to what worked in the past. But in many circumstances, previously reliable understandings no longer apply. Now you must consider a range of possible scenarios, but knowing when and how to do that kind of thinking doesn’t come naturally to many people. Mastering this necessary new skill means forming new habits of mind.

Get used to asking new and genuine questions.

Avoid asking questions whose answers you think you know or questions whose answers you’ll ignore. Ask considered questions you truly want answered to open a broader range of possibilities and paths. People want to find a problem’s cause and make changes to fix it. This might work for a simple problem...

About the Authors

Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston run a global leadership consultancy from New Zealand. They emphasize organizational readiness for success in a VUCA world.

Comment on this summary

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  • Avatar
    E. M. 2 months ago
    Action Plan
    how can I prepare myself for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity with small daily routines and habits?
    Stay Informed
    Read Daily News
    Follow Thought Leaders
    Seek Diverse Perspectives
    Connect with Others
    Break Down Complex Tasks
    Use the Pomodoro Technique
    Read Widely
    Build Resilience
    Reflect Daily
  • Avatar
    J. M. 7 months ago
  • Avatar
    M. P. 12 months ago
    Very much help fully

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