S Curves

It’s time to ditch our static view of the enterprise. Organizations are complex systems that must adapt to survive. But the challenge is tricky. Every organization faces a continuously dancing landscape of opportunities and risks.


The evolutionary process inherent in every organization continuously poses complex, adaptive challenges. These problems have no established solutions. There’s no handbook, no reference guide that will provide answers. Adaptive challenges defy the type of root cause analysis that works on technical problems. Collective intuition, continuous experimentation, and learning by doing provide the only promising pathway to successful adaptation.

The problem, of course, is that our success can be seductive. We can become so focused on optimizing our current solutions that we miss the weak signals sent by a shifting environment. We can become so focused on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of our current system that we ignore the necessity to continuously experiment and adapt.


Rigorous research underscores an important point: when organizations face complex, adaptive challenges, they need to organize cognitively diverse teams. Some years ago, a colleague put me in touch with the work of Peter Robertson. Peter, a trained psychiatrist, has spent his career guiding leaders as they face continuous change. Peter sees organizations as ecosystems.

Like our work in Strategic Doing, Peter uses S-Curves capture the dynamic environment that organizations face. His work led to the development of the AEM-Cube assessment. This framework helps us form cognitively diverse teams. For seven or eight years, we have been partnering with Human Insight, the company based in the Netherlands that carries forward Peter’s work. (27,000)