Navigating Change through Contextual Intelligence and Collaborative Capital

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Author: Dr. Justine Chinoperekweyi
A lot is written about the business environment being volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. This environment invariably puts organizations in a constant state of disorganization. Following the changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, most organizations report that margins of success and error are narrowing. For organizations to navigate prudently through these changes requires a new approach to thinking, knowledge generation, and strategic management. There are numerous change management philosophies which have evolved over the years to capture the increasing complexity and chaos in organizations and the business environment. Prior to the pandemic, most organizations and practitioners had an increasing proclivity towards linear, non-holistic and goal-directed models and box-ticking tools and routines. These models and tools were, by-and-large, considered transforming, power tools, and magical and as such success was regarded as guaranteed. Fortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic did cast a dark shadow on most of these tools and organizations were forced to change overnight. In this article I submit that exclusive reliance on linear, simplistic approaches is not only inaccurate but extremely dangerous. Though simplicity is elegant, in most cases it is regarded as untrue. Recent events from the Covid-19 pandemic reinforce that VUCA is anathema, and VUCA-Prime is darling to leading change and continuous improvement. It is an aphorism that deterministic, linear change management approaches cannot resolve the complex, emotive, and fluid character of change.
Though change management is discussed so glibly, it is important to reiterate that reality reveals itself in accordance with the perspective through which it is revealed. Change management scholar-practitioners need to indicate the concept of ‘bounded rationality’ and its effects on effective and sustainable change or transition management. Bounded rationality focuses on the limits of human capabilities, in the sense that human rationality cannot map all environmental variables, create all the deriving alternatives, scan through the alternatives, and select the best option. Therefore, individuals with bounded rationality reach satisficing results, that is, they accept satisfactory results rather than making optimal ones because of the limitations in their decision-making process. In attending to change, it is essential to enhance our perception and intelligence and this demands contextual intelligence derived from Appreciative Inquiry and leveraging collaborative capital.
Reading from the results of the World Health Organization announcement of COVID-19 as a pandemic, change leads to tension, and literature proposes acceptance and resolution as strategies to resolve internal organizational tensions. Acceptance involves social actors coping with tension. Acceptance requires social actors to “shift their expectations of rationality and linearity to accept paradoxes as persistent and unsolvable matter”. On the other hand, resolution encompasses restructuring relationship between elements under tension. This calls for the need to reframe “the relations between polarized elements” to create an integrative model.
Contextual Intelligence
Change in the business environment exhibits the shifting of environmental variables which keeps context in a constant state of flux. Context is characterized by a mix of stretch, discipline, support, and trust that demands contextual ambidexterity. Contextual intelligence is a leadership competency that integrates concepts of diagnosing context and exercising knowledge. Contextual intelligence requires enriching the perspectives of those in decision making roles and enhancing organizational ambidexterity through exploitation and exploration. The exploitation function allows an organization to exploit and use its own knowledge base to implement, deliver, and benefit from its own backlog or work to justify its existence. Exploration permits the organization to expand, look beyond the horizon, and invest in the future to sustain and infuse trust in the current operation while justifying its continuity.
Collaborative Capital
In strategic talent management, social interactions are pivotal to talent problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurial skills. As a strategic and operational imperative in talented organizations, the social networking philosophy is fundamental to solidifying individual and group efficacy. Employees should always be guided by collaborative working with a focus on discovering new insights and any promising adjacencies in their work. Organizations should leverage on internet-based social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on to grow their businesses. Covid-19 has awakened organizations to virtual working platforms which are driving business performance across economic sectors. Virtual collaborations have now assumed the central seat in organizations.
Collaborative capital drives talented organizations. The words of Warren Buffet beautifully capture the significance of collaborative capital in talented organizations:
None of us is as smart as all of us… In a society as complex and technologically sophisticated as ours, the most urgent projects require the coordinated contributions of many talented people… The richer the mix of people, the more likely that new connections will be made… We have to recognize a new paradigm: not great leaders alone but great leaders who exist in a fertile relationship with a Great Group.
To effectively navigate change, organizations need to enhance employee engagement, foster workforce diversity management, nurture workforce entrepreneurial proclivity, foster talent market orientation, and leverage on coaching, mentorship, & facilitating change interventions. These competencies will lead organizations towards shunning box-ticking routines, shirking reliance on linear methodologies, and embracing technology. Contextual intelligence and Collaborative capital should be top priorities in organizations’ strategic and operational roadmaps.
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  1. Dotun on August 6, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    I love this “Exploration permits the organization to expand, look beyond the horizon, and invest in the future to sustain and infuse trust in the current operation while justifying its continuity.” Also, the power of collaborative capital is an essential need in an ever dynamic corporate landscape in the wake of the global pandemic impacts

    Thank you Doc.

  2. Samuel Osho on August 7, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    This is an instructive piece. Contextual intelligence and Collaborative capital are pivotal to the effective navigation of organizations through the challenges arising from the impact of the pandemic. The answers have always been with us. Thank you for sharing, Doctor Justine.

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