How do you create emergent properties?

What are the emergent properties?

Emergent properties are skillsets, competencies, behavior, or capabilities that a group of people manages to develop. Just a group of people have the highest level of emergent properties. People that compose the group might have a very limited level of those properties or they are missing those properties as individuals. 

A good example of emergent property that just the group has, but an individual is missing is mass production. An example of emergent property that the group has a higher level from the sum of all of its parts is creativity. 

Why emergent properties are important?

Companies are operating in an increasingly complex business environment. There is a constant struggle with complexity, mainly because people never taught and therefore know how to deal with complexity. All we learn is how to reduce or simplify complexity, but that doesn’t seem to work. 

One of the best ways to deal with complexity is by creating teams that can create emergent properties. The ability to create emergent property enables teams to adjust very fast to feedback from their environment. This agility (and I’m not talking about a framework) works better with complexity. If you want to learn more about it, science has a lot to offer.

How to create them?

Ok, so this is a tricky question. It’s tricky because you as an external can’t create emergent properties, just the team can create those properties. 

So, what can you do? You can teach groups what are emergent properties, you can incentivize them to create emergent properties, and you can create an environment that supports and enable teams to create emergent properties.

The first step is to learn what are emergent properties and what are the conditions to create them. This knowledge should be used to educate teams and to create the right conditions to enable emergent properties.

The second step is to set up goals or metrics that measure emergent properties and to find what is the right incentive for each group and individual to continuously work on emergent properties.

The last step is to create the right environment. That is actually a topic that one can write a book on. In a nutshell trust and understanding of a team that failure is an opportunity to learn and not a trigger to punish are the two main ingredients. 

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