Unleash Your Complexity Genius
Growing Your Inner Capacity to Lead
Jennifer Garvey Berger and Carolyn Coughlin


Contents and Abstracts
1 It's not just out there, it's in here: your nervous system meets complexity
chapter abstract

Although it may seem like the world is more complex than ever, the truth is, it's always been pretty complex. And if we are to thrive in complexity, we need to not only understand what complexity is, but also how we are in it and especially how complexity outside us interacts with the complexity inside us. This chapter describes what complexity is and how it differs from the predictable world, offers a view into the complexity of us as human beings, and reminds us that we are actually quite well-designed for complexity; they key is to find ways to tap into our complexity geniuses and amplify them when we most need them.

2 Start with the present: The genius of noticing
chapter abstract

This chapter starts with a core complexity principle that the future arises from the present. While this idea is elegantly simple, it is not so easy for most humans to set aside the allure of a future destination in order to focus on the present. Fortunately, we humans also have a very helpful design feature (although it is mostly ignored or underutilized) among living creatures, which is that we can direct our attention, and with practice, we can direct it to the present moment both inside us and outside of us, enabling us to be more fit for complexity.

3 Adjust yourself first: the genius of breathing, moving, and sleeping
chapter abstract

In this chapter we discover not only that we can make moves that help us become more fit for complexity, but that they arise from another set of core features of the human design and that they can be deliberately practiced and amplified. It starts with the transformational idea that we do not see the world as it is; rather, we see the world as we are. So by making small but deliberate shifts in the way we are—-through the geniuses of breathing, moving, and sleeping—we actually see the world differently. And when what we see if less threatening, we can meet the world with our creative, parasympathetic nervous system leading the way.

4 Create the conditions for things to change: The Genius of experimenting
chapter abstract

In this chapter we discover why experimentation is so useful in complexity, why the urge to fix and solve is tempting but anti-helpful, and explore some of the features of our human design that—if tapped into and amplified—can help us not only to engage in experimentation but to delight in it. We learn that in complexity, it's not so much about making things happen as it is about creating the conditions for the things you want to become more possible. By loosening our attachment to outcomes, leaning into humility, and befriending endings, it becomes more possible to experiment our way into the future we want.

5 Emotions are the new facts: the Genius of laughing and wondering
chapter abstract

The core—and somewhat counterintuitive—ideas in this chapter are that our emotions are not what we thought they were, and that we have a lot more agency over them than we think we do. Our emotions are not fixed things that happen to us; rather, they arise from the combination of what's happening in our nervous system plus the context in which they occur. In other words, we unconsciously interpret what we're (often also unconsciously) experiencing in our nervous system based on the situation. And because our emotions are constructions, we can re-construct them in ways that are more conducive to thriving in complexity by amplifying our innate complexity geniuses of laughing and wondering.

6 Connections matter more than competence: the Genius of loving
chapter abstract

This chapter starts with another core complexity principle: that in complexity, connections matter more than nodes. It's the number, nature, and diversity of connections that shape the patterns of a complex system; and it's also in the connections where some of the most powerful keys to complexity fitness lie. By amplifying the simple geniuses of loving our differences and loving our humanity, we can build our own capacity to thrive in complexity and create the conditions for the organizations and communities we live in to do the same.