Episode 14: Jennifer Garvey-Berger on Simple Habits for Complex Times [The Amiel Show]

What do you get when one of the world’s experts in adult development, an aspiring novelist, writes a practical guide for organizations on leading through complexity?

Simple Habits for Complex Timesthe new book by Jennifer Garvey-Berger (co-authored with Keith Johnston). What I love about it: not only does it entice the reader to see organizational life through a powerful new lens, it’s a great read!

The book is built around two stories, both with leaders in over their heads in complexity yet willing to stretch their minds and habits to rise to the challenge.

Master difficult conversations

Learn my best tips for staying cool under pressure and elevating your leadership in complex times.


After the great response (nearly 2,000 downloads) to my earlier interview with Jennifer, I just had to interview her about the new book. Fortunately, she was game.


In Episode 14 of The Amiel Show, Jennifer and I discuss (times are approximate):
  • 5:00 How complex systems differ from simple and complicated systems
  • 10:00 Our hunger for cause-and-effect
  • 12:40 The “rich picture of now” brainstorm—and the importance of not being aspirational
  • 17:00 The purpose of safe-to-fail experiments
  • 23:00 Why pilot experiments piss people off
  • 27:30 How job surveys don’t just measure a system. They shape it
  • 33:00 How people create phantom rules that everybody hates
  • 38:00 How complexity principles work at every stage of adult development
  • 40:00 Looking for the attractors that contribute to compliance-based behaviors
  • 44:30 What we miss by assuming we are emotion-less Vulcans rather than human beings
  • 48:30 “We hire the smartest people” and other well-meaning habits that can block learning
  • 53:00 Creating more complex ways to think about performance at work

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“A safe-to-fail experiment always works if you have a way to harness the learning.” 

–Jennifer Garvey-Berger  Tweet this quote

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