Simple Habits for Complex Times Book Summary - Simple Habits for Complex Times Book explained in key points
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Simple Habits for Complex Times summary

Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston

Powerful Practices for Leaders

4.2 (257 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

'Simple Habits for Complex Times' by Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston is a practical guide that helps individuals and organizations develop the capacity to adapt and thrive in complex environments. It offers simple habits and tools to cultivate leadership skills and navigate complexity.

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    Simple Habits for Complex Times
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    Our complex world requires new approaches to leadership.

    Here’s a tough scenario: Yolanda just became the head of a government agency responsible for placing children in foster care. It would be a great gig, but the agency is a mess. In her first year on the job, multiple children are hurt or go missing.

    She does everything she can to solve the problem. She commissions reports, internal investigations, and fact-finding missions. In the end, all this research turns up tons of information but no answers. There are just too many variables to consider and no patterns to be found.

    The key message here is: Our complex world requires new approaches to leadership.

    The world is a very different place than it used to be. There are more people, more ways to communicate, and everything from supply lines to personal networks can now span the entire globe. All this intricate interconnection gives rise to a set of conditions we can abbreviate to VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

    VUCA poses a particular challenge to leaders, a category that includes everyone from the heads of big businesses to parents and teachers. Leaders have traditionally made decisions about the future by examining the past. However, in our VUCA world, the past is no longer a great predictor of what is to come.

    Think about it. 500 years ago, there were only a handful of careers to choose from. Today, choosing the right course of study means anticipating a career that might not even exist yet.

    Under these conditions, an effective leader needs to cultivate three crucial mental habits.

    First, they need to practice asking different questions. You should always ask questions that broaden your thinking rather than narrow it. For instance, if something goes wrong, don’t just ask “what happened?” also ask “what else could have happened?”

    Second, leaders need to take multiple perspectives. Don’t simply rely on your own point of view. Make an effort to understand how others see a situation. Even if you disagree, the difference in thinking or reasoning could provide valuable insight.

    Third and finally, leaders need to see systems. This means taking a step back and looking for unexpected connections. It’s easy to look at the world as a series of single causes and effects, but it’s more accurate to see the world as a web, where each action has multiple causes and multiple effects.

    Let's look at how this all plays out in action.

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    What is Simple Habits for Complex Times about?

    Simple Habits for Complex Times (2015) is a guide for leaders looking to navigate today’s ever-shifting and always uncertain world. Rather than presenting one-size-fits-all solutions only suitable for static problems, this management manual teaches the art of nimble thinking.

    Simple Habits for Complex Times Review

    Simple Habits for Complex Times (2015) by Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston is a book that offers valuable insights into navigating the complexities of our modern world. Here's why we think it's worth reading:

    • It presents practical approaches for dealing with complex situations, helping readers develop adaptive habits to thrive in an ever-changing environment.
    • With its emphasis on reflection and self-awareness, the book encourages readers to explore their own thinking patterns and biases, leading to personal growth and improved decision-making.
    • Through real-world examples and relatable stories, the book brings its concepts to life, ensuring that readers stay engaged and apply the principles to their own lives.

    Best quote from Simple Habits for Complex Times

    If the leaders themselves arent looking out for their own quirks... they may be seeing a very small, skewed piece of the world.

    —Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston
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    Who should read Simple Habits for Complex Times?

    • Budding CEOs aiming to build leadership skills
    • Ambitious auteurs looking to become team players
    • People interested in the psychology of leadership

    About the Author

    Jennifer Garvey Berger is a leadership coach and internationally renowned expert on development and management. She is the founder of Cultivating Leadership, a school for teaching leadership skills and the author of Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World.

    Keith Johnston holds a PhD in leadership development from Australian National University. His previous work includes several management positions in New Zealand’s Department of Conservation and chairing the global board of trustees of Oxfam International.

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    Simple Habits for Complex Times FAQs 

    What is the main message of Simple Habits for Complex Times?

    The main message of Simple Habits for Complex Times is how to navigate uncertainty with agility and adaptability.

    How long does it take to read Simple Habits for Complex Times?

    The reading time for Simple Habits for Complex Times varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Simple Habits for Complex Times a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Simple Habits for Complex Times is worth reading as it provides valuable insights and practical tools to navigate complexity and thrive in uncertain times.

    Who is the author of Simple Habits for Complex Times?

    The authors of Simple Habits for Complex Times are Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston.

    What to read after Simple Habits for Complex Times?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Simple Habits for Complex Times, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields
    • Our Iceberg Is Melting by John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber
    • The Purpose Effect by Dan Pontefract
    • Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood
    • Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World by Jim Brumm
    • Adaptability by Max McKeown
    • The 3-Minute Rule by Brant Pinvidic
    • The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Fail Fast, Fail Often by Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz