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Creative leadership for a flourishing world.

On complexity, systems, and storytelling

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“What would it be like to grow organizations whose complexity arises from the cross-pollinating visions and imaginations of their constituent members?” — David Whyte

Last week I asked a question on Twitter that generated a surprising amount of conversation. I’m thankful to everyone who contributed to the thread, pointed me to storytellers and resources, and challenged my thinking.

What was I thinking?

Pretty much this: organizations are complex systems but most business processes are built for ordered systems. The type of system that can be designed and controlled, and where things like root cause analysis can be clearly mapped.

If you look at theories of management over the last several decades, the underlying metaphor of organization as machine — with some human development theories layered in —…

Receiving feedback can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be

Good feedback, whether you are on the receiving or giving end, requires an attitude of curiosity and openness. Intentionally creating space for feedback can help, but even with the right space, receiving feedback can be really scary. Many organizations have formal systems of feedback in the style of mid-year and annual reviews. And it’s not uncommon for informal continuous feedback to supplement formal reviews. Formal or informal, the moment feedback is on the table, there’s a good chance our amygdala is going to freak out. And when it does, it’s fight, flight, or freeze time. …

What happens outside the conversation is as important as what happens in it

Remember that time someone gave you a gift and you opened it and were like, “oh wow, this person doesn’t know me at all”? Maybe it wasn’t your style (or size), or too flashy, or just totally not anything you’d be into? The type of gift that is more about the person giving it, than about you?

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Well, most feedback is like a shitty gift, given for the sake of someone else.

Great feedback, on the other hand, is a gift for both parties. When approached with curiosity, care, and understanding, giving feedback becomes a learning conversation. The first step…

Whether you’re stuck or looking to grow, support can come in many forms. Which is right for you?

There are times in life where we need some outside support to help us get to where we want to go. Often we turn to friends, family, and community to help us reflect and get unstuck, but sometimes we might also want a more formal set-up in the form of a therapist, coach, mentor, or advisor. As someone who has worked with all the above (and is currently a full-time executive coach) here are a few thoughts to help you on your journey.


The purpose of coaching is to facilitate learning, development, and change. One thing about coaching that surprises…

Understanding the differences between management and leadership can help you be more effective as a team, department, or company leader, but when it comes to management there are a few subtleties that have outsized impact: managing yourself and managing relationships. Forget the idea of managing people. The rest will fall into place.

Management, by the very definition of the word, has to do with supervision, administration, and control of resources. There are all kinds of resources in an organization that need managing:

  • Processes
  • Decisions
  • Budgets
  • Products
  • Programs
  • Knowledge
  • Time

Notice that ‘people’ is not included in the list. “Human Resources”…

A closer look at management, leadership, and why it’s important to understand the differences between the two.

Photo by Tara Evans on Unsplash

If you’re stepping into a leadership role, chances are you’re also going to be doing a lot of managing. And while it’s true the two overlap quite a bit, understanding the differences can help you be more effective manager, a more inspirational leader, and more successful overall.

On Management

Managers are a specific breed of leader, created by the business world to guide the destinies of corporate enterprises. They are responsible and accountable for running and managing a part of the business. This might be…

The pandemic, for all that’s been written about it, has done a bang-up job of making the invisible visible. The tenuous state of the American health-care system, the brittleness of supply chains, not to mention the irregularity of men’s hand-washing. It’s also brought to the foreground the shifting cadences and complexities of how we show up at work, often under the guise of navigating “The New Normal”. What’s now visible is the variability in how work and life happens day to day, an acknowledgement of the importance of self-care, and an acceptance that this shit is hard. …

The design team at Movable Ink is unified across brand, product design, and research. This approach allows us to focus on growing the practice of design within the organization and creating a unified customer experience, but can be challenging because the various design disciplines collaborate with vastly different parts of the organization, users, and customer base. I’ll save the details of our org design for another post, but you can imagine that designers are embedded with various teams working on different products, projects, and initiatives. …

This is Part 2 of, “So You’ve Got a Seat at the Table. Now What?” Feel free to read this post independently, or check out Part 1 for the back story.

Challenge #1: Vision

The first challenge once you get to the table is vision — as in what is your vision for design in your organization? Your vision will be predicated on a number of things, not least of which is your philosophy of design and design leadership, but it will also depend on the type of organization you are integrating design into.

To understand the organization you have to know what…

method & matter

Creative leadership for a flourishing world.

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