Complexity demands collaboration

In a world of increasing complexity, unpredictability and sheer randomness, the idea that traditional, hierarchy-based leaders can lead us to a better future is both naive and dangerous.

Nobody’s in control. Nobody knows what the future will bring. Things have become just too complicated. In such an environment, the most dangerous are those full of certainty and zeal, as they fight to rise above with their Zeppelin-like egos.

The hard, brutal reality is that we all have to take more responsibility. The best response to unpredictability is flexibility. We must be ready and willing to change our attitudes, our opinions and our decisions based on shifts in our ever-changing environment.

Faced with such an unpredictable present and future, we must resist the call of the wild, the simplicity and comfort of tribal thinking. I am as much a culprit as anyone else for this tribal thinking. And all around me I hear the chants of the tribes of my profession. People love nothing better than to split into groups and do their own thing.

In the Web industry of which I have had the honor to be a part for more than 20 years there is a dizzying array of digital tribes. We have the content tribe, and the UX tribe and the CX tribe and the IA tribe. We have the techies from Pluto, the visual designers from Saturn, and the marketing folks from Mars. And there’s the sales crowd, the support crowd, the analytics crowd and the SEO crowd. And the Social crowd see the Web crowd as competitors, and mobile is of course the new and future king. All these tribes either consciously or unconsciously seeking advantage, competing with the others for budget and prestige.

I watch time and time again as groups within open offices busy themselves building walls within their minds. Within six months, they converse in jargon with a tight circle of those who share their passions and agree with them. They don’t have time to discuss with the others because that would slow them down and might even challenge some of their certainties. And what’s the result? A silo-delivered, sub-standard customer experience.

The seamless customer experience is the Holy Grail at the moment. How on earth can you have a seamless customer experience without a seamless organization? When so many of us are busy stitching and building walls, who’s building bridges and ironing out the seams?

We can do so much better, and deep down, we all know that. It’s just that it’s so hard and messy and time consuming to get multidiscipline, multigroup collaboration going. And, of course, the traditional organization rewards tribal departmental behavior, encourages internal competition, and often actively punishes those who promote collaboration across and outside the organization.

This is a call to the rebel. It’s easy for me, I know, sitting comfortably on the outside. But there has never been a greater need for a holistic view of the customer and a holistic view of the organization. The road is tough but the rewards are huge. In practically every instance where I have seen major web success, I have seen a wide web of collaboration and interconnections.

You’re not responsible for content, technology, graphics, usability, Twitter, apps, websites. We’re all responsible for the customer experience. Together.