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Four Keys to Managing Emergence

Research has repeatedly demonstrated that managers contribute to a company's bottom line by enabling the emergence of work processes in constantly changing situations. But managers have received insufficient guidance about what exactly they should be doing to manage these emergent processes. The authors contend that managers must actively facilitate the confluence of participatory "spurts" of innovation.

By examining the methods of companies such as Novell, IDS Scheer AG and Entergy, the authors identify four methods successful managers employ to address an emergent environment. First, these managers structure the work so that information, assumptions and interpretations are continually being challenged. Second, they accept that changing circumstance will continually require new knowledge and skill sets. Third, they understand that emergent processes involve unpredictable inputs from suppliers, employees, customers and other stakeholders. Lastly, they understand that they alone cannot induce participatory innovation, so they have learned to create or identify existing "reputation networks."

Managers who have mastered these principles help their organizations to react so quickly to unpredictable events that the reactions often appear to have been planned and preemptive.
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