Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders with Scott Allen

Dr. Mary Uhl-Bien - Leadership Through the Lens of Complexity

December 06, 2020 Season 1 Episode 37
Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders with Scott Allen
Dr. Mary Uhl-Bien - Leadership Through the Lens of Complexity
Show Notes Transcript

Mary Uhl-Bien is the BNSF Railway Endowed Professorship in Leadership, Professor of Management at Texas Christian University. She has been named one of the most influential leadership scholars since 1990. She is widely published in the world's top leadership and management journals and since 2000 has focused her work on complexity leadership.

Select Articles by Dr. Uhl-Bien

  • Uhl-Bien, M. & Arena, M. (2018). Leadership for organizational adaptability: A theoretical synthesis and integrative framework. The Leadership Quarterly, 29(1), 89-104.
  • Uhl-Bien, M. & Arena, M. (2017). Complexity leadership: Enabling people and organizations for adaptability. Organization Dynamics, 46, 9-20.
  • Uhl-Bien, M., Riggio, R., Lowe, K., & Carsten, M. (2014). Followership theory: A review and research agenda. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 83-104.
  • Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007). Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(4), 298-318. (Elsevier Most Cited Paper Recognition 2007-2012)
  • Marion, R., & Uhl-Bien, M. (2003). Complexity theory and Al Qaeda: Examining complex leadership. Emergence: A Journal of Complexity Issues in Organizations and Management, 5(1), 54-76.
  • Marion, R., & Uhl-Bien, M. (2001). Leadership in complex organizations. The Leadership Quarterly, 12(4), 389-418. (Center for Creative Leadership/Leadership Quarterly Best Paper Award for 2001)
  • Graen, G., & Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective. The Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), 219-247. (Most cited article in first two decades of LQ)

Quotes From This Episode

  • "So when you have complexity, it opens up adaptive space. Adaptive space is a situation in which you have to do something different. So it creates an adaptive challenge, and it loosens up so you can get things done."
  • "So the rich interconnectivity means that there are rich interactions or dynamics that occur in the inner interconnections. And when things bump up against each other, they fundamentally transform each other."
  • "The reason it's happening more now is because our world is so interconnected. So when you increase the base number of interconnections, then you increase the chance of a rich interconnection, which means we have more complexity."
  • "(Biden)  has to figure out how to enable an adaptive process. And what we found in our work is at the core of leading for adaptability is enabling the adaptive process. The adaptive process occurs when there's a push for novelty, and there's a push for stability. Those are that's a polarity in organizations theory they talk about. It's ambidexterity. It's a polarity. So, or a paradox."
  • "So the bottom line is, Joe Biden has to come in and he has to enable that conflicting and connecting and enable the ideas from the different perspectives to clash together... So the challenge isn't just creating the space for the ideas to conflict and connect, it's how do you get it converted into a new order, which means new laws, new systems, etc.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Note: Voice to text transcriptions are about 90% accurate. 

Scott Allen  0:09  
On the podcast today, we have a woman who is at the forefront of thinking when it comes to this topic of leadership. And, and she's not only at the forefront, but she's at 50,000 feet, and everything in between. And so I'm nervous, I'm anxious for this conversation, because I think it's going to go in some fun directions we have today, Mary Uhl-Bien, and she is at Texas Christian University. She is a professor of leadership. She is incredibly well published, we will place some of her primary pieces in the show notes, and you can explore her work further. But as I said, She's at the forefront of the thinking, and she's doing she's thinking big. And we're going to take this conversation in some really cool places. But to start Mary, how did you get into this leadership thing? This researching leadership? I'm excited to hear that story.

Mary Uhl-Bien  1:08  
Well, the question really has to be how did you get into complexity leadership? You want me to talk about how I got into leadership that goes way too far back? I got into complexity leadership. Yeah. So I was trained and Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX). And my advisor in my in grad school is the one who developed that theory. So I learned a lot about how to do theory in grad school and beyond. But the theory basically said that leadership is about the relationship between a leader and a subordinate, your manager and a subordinate or leader and a follower. And when I went out and tried to use that, and consulting when I got hired by State Farm as their educational consultant in the 90s, and when I tried to use it to teach executives when I started teaching MBA classes, I found that did not explain leadership at all. I remember sitting with Jim Smith, who was the VP at State Farm, and I'd say, Jim, you need to go out and build relationships. He's like, Okay, so then he did it. I get back. I've met with the VPs, all afternoon. And he, I get called into his office, Judi Crew says Mary, Mr. Smith would like to see you. I said, "Oh, no, I'm getting fired on my first day." So I go into his office, he says, Look at what I'm doing. I said, What are you doing? He said, email. I said, Yeah, he said, I've been out building relationships all afternoon. Awesome. So we both felt great. So I went back for my second visit a month later. And we had lunch. And Jim said, "Mary, I have a confession to make. I'm not doing that anymore." And I said, "Why?" He said, "because that's not my job." And I said, Oh, so this, he taught me more than I taught him. I'm sure this was eye-opening. And this is an experience that was transformative because I said, I am young in this profession. I want to do work that has meaning for the world and for practice. And I am not going to spend my life even though I'm getting famous in academia for a theory, I'm not going to spend my life researching something that doesn't have practical value. So I was on the quest to find out what that was not I won't make the story too long. But then I got introduced to Russ Marion in 2001. Jerry Hunt was the editor of Leadership Quarterly. And he saw him at a conference. He said, "Mary, I've got this guy, and there's a paper he's written on complexity applied to leadership, and I want you to work on it with him." And I'm standing there, and I looked at Jerry, and I said, "Jerry, I don't know anything about this." He said, "That's okay. Russ, come over here." So Russ comes over, he says, "Russ, here's Mary, Mary. Here's Russ. Russ, send Mary your book, Mary, go home and read it and you guys write this paper."

Scott Allen  3:41  
Wow. Wow!

Mary Uhl-Bien  3:42  
It was pretty amazing. He was a complexity guy. So he knew how to link people up.

Scott Allen  3:47  
Oh, that's awesome.

Mary Uhl-Bien  3:48  
Yeah. So then I ended up in complexity. And I read the book, The Edge of Organization, it was all about complexity in the physical and biological sciences. And my head was just going off. It was saying, This is everything I've been looking for in leadership. This explains everything I've been trying to understand and explain and how the world works in relationships and relationality. And it's all interactive. And there's all this context stuff. So Russ, and I set up on the journey to study complexity. And that was in 2001.

Scott Allen  4:21  
So that's almost 20 years. What What, what are some major twists and turns that have occurred in those couple decades?

Mary Uhl-Bien  4:32  
Well, Scott, let me ask you a question. What do you think is the story of 2020? Do you think we're in complexity?

Scott Allen  4:39  
Yes, yes, we are in multiple complexities.

Mary Uhl-Bien  4:43  
We are, and we are in one of the courses I'm I've now I'm starting to teach called Leading in the Age of Disruption, which I borrowed the title from a friend of mine. Yeah, this is the time of true disruption and complexity. So in 2001, when we when I read Russell's book, it made sense to me. And then we looked out, I still had to figure out how to make the bread and butter or get the bread and butter, you know, feed the family. Yeah. So I'm thinking, well, is this something I can invest some time in? Or do I need to stick with the traditional because this was definitely not traditional? And I saw complexity everywhere. And I saw it in every discipline all around me. So we knew it was coming. And he was my mentor. He taught me everything I knew about it. We worked, we developed a theory, we published that paper in 2007. So just to tell you how this work has been received, and the fact that we didn't know this is going to happen. We turn the paper in on September 10, 2001. On September 11 2001. So Jerry was really pressing it. He knew he was always looking to see he knew leadership was missing something. Again, Jerry Hunt, the editor of Leadership Quarterly, and was always trying to help us figure out how we can get there. So September 11. happens. Well, we turn the paper in, and we ended up winning the Best Paper Award that year. We had no idea that the world was the real leadership, researchers were saying you're on to something you guys need to keep going. Yeah, we've dug in. It was hard. It was a long haul. But then, in 2007, we published our big theory paper, and it turned out that won the Decennial Award. 

Scott Allen  6:22  
And yes, I mean, when you say it's hard, I mean, that's an understatement. You're talking strategy, innovation networks, you're looking at a whole number of different bodies of literature. Correct?

Mary Uhl-Bien  6:35  
It's a completely new ontology, paradigm for thinking about leadership. I've heard people, when I present it, say, "really Mary what you've got," because they're psychologists, and they're trying to figure it out, they say "really marry, what you've got is a meta theory of the firm." Really, I didn't know that. But it really is big. And I tmeta-theoryciting thing is, it draws from physical and biological sciences. So what we've done is we've understood how the world works. And then we've applied that to human and social systems. And we're finding that the patterns that work in nature are the same that work in human and social systems. And it's fascinating. And I presented this a couple of years ago, there was a physicist in the room. And he was sitting next to me, I saw him, he was getting ready to go to sleep. It's like, "Oh, this person's going to talk about leadership, I can see I'm just checking out - nap. Well, before I even got back to my office, he had written me, and he said, "you just presented physics." And I said, "you can see that through what I'm gonna get there." We then figured out a way to make it work so that people could understand it, and then he could see the physics in it. So it's pretty cool stuff.

Scott Allen  7:44  
Well, and so what are some of the foundational concepts people have to understand to even begin to engage in the conversation? What what are some things that come to mind for you?

Mary Uhl-Bien  7:54  
Well, so the first thing is to understand complexity and what complexity is, and this is something again, when I presented it all through the 2000s, people struggled, some people would get it, they think about this, I think this way, but others were like, "We don't like this, we don't like what you're talking about. We don't like where you're going, we're comfortable in our world, and we don't want to hear it." So they would push back pretty hard. And I had that with students. So complexity is about the idea that there's rich interconnectivity. So if we take that and break that down, I've been able to do the name that tune, you know, name that tune. Oh, yeah. Well, not so complexity. I've got it down to two words for my name that tune what is complexity? And I have to tell you that right, there is an accomplishment because if you go read the stuff, it's not easy. That's "rich interconnectivity." So the world is interconnected. Now you get what that means, right? Yep. I don't think anybody has a question anymore about how interconnected we are. Well, when things are interconnected, the complexity event occurs because of what it's called what I call or what we call "rich." So the rich interconnectivity means that there are rich interactions or dynamics that occur in the inner interconnections. And when things bump up against each other, they fundamentally transform each other. Let's take the exam. I was just showing him the webinar just did a New York Times article, that is called How the Virus Got Out. And it's a graphic, it has a whole graphic, and it shows how the virus spread out. So how did it get out? Well, a bad bit an animal, that animal at least this is what they think the story is, that animal then was eaten by a human who then got sick, so thinks about the interconnection here, right, creates a new disease, by the interaction of the bat and the animal and the human eating it, and then that spreads because of interconnectivity. So, and then when that spreads and interconnectivity, it creates a pandemic, so there's another phase transition. So at first, it's just a couple of people sick. But as it grows, then it aggregates, it's an emergence process. And at some point, it doesn't just get bigger, it morphs into something different. That's pandemic. So that's a complexity emergence event. And that's happening all around us. The reason it's happening more now is because our world is so interconnected. So when you increase the base number of interconnections, then you increase the chance of a rich interconnection, which means we have more complexity.

Scott Allen  10:39  
Yeah. Well, what are some other base-level things we have to understand, to engage in the conversation?

Mary Uhl-Bien  10:49  
So with that complexity, then we have to lead differently. So, this means leaders have to think very differently about what leadership is, what management is, how we run organizations, and the big thing for organizations is thinking about adaptability, organizational adaptability.

Scott Allen  11:07  
Yeah. Well, it's fascinating because I, I just started a course, Mary, about two years ago on technologies, enabling disruption. So I am not a technologist, my background is leadership. But it's something that kind of fascinates me because here you have any number of different organizations nipping at the big, the big dogs trying to steal their bread and butter, and in some cases, doing so right, creating billion-dollar companies. Instagram is sold to Facebook for a billion dollars with 13 employees, while Kodak files for bankruptcy that same day,

Mary Uhl-Bien  11:44  
right. And

Scott Allen  11:46  
so I've become very, very, very interested in that. And I think you're exactly right. I mean, leadership and leading differently. And I don't even understand how some senior executives are conducting strategy right now if they don't have an understanding of what's happening on the margins. And if they don't have an understanding of how some of these technologies are being used and how they could be used. The potential...

Mary Uhl-Bien  12:09  
They've learned it, and they've learned it the hard way because we've been in complexity for a while. So the good is that if you looked at and you see their response to the pandemic, businesses did pretty well. I mean, honestly, they were pretty adaptive pretty quickly. Now, some of these were in environments that were difficult for them to survive. But for the most part, they were able to transition in large part because of technology. But this is because they've been dealing with complexity for a while, where we saw a bad response was governments. Governments have not have the complexity, pressures. And complexity, pressure is one where you have to adapt or die. Well, our governments aren't set up to die. They don't have those pressures. And as a result, they don't adapt very well. Big bureaucracies, rigidity, people not managing for the right reasons, but business organizations will die, they'll fail if they don't do this. Well. So I see huge changes in strategic leadership right now.

Scott Allen  13:09  
Well, think about that. I mean, Progressive Insurance, I've had some association with them. Key Bank, another fortune 500, literally moving 10s of thousands of employees home in the matter of a week, and still conducting business. Right? I mean, time, if you will, yes. And, you know, you had mentioned that it's a threat, that is the impetus sometimes for this adaptation. But Wow. I mean, it happened quickly.

Mary Uhl-Bien  13:40  
It did. And what's exciting, so this is why everybody else is unhappy right now, and miserable and suffering. And I have to admit, I'm going to tell you a little secret, I'm really in heaven because a year ago, I was saying, "I need to have another complexity example." And now I have so many of them. I don't even know what to do with it at all. I mean, it's really, I'm in the luxury of riches here. But what happened with executives is, they were able to do that, because they have, because of technology, but because they're more poised for it based on what they've learned from complexity in the last decade in particular. So if we look at the remote work, the technology was already there. So when you have complexity, it opens up adaptive space. Adaptive space is a situation in which you have to do something different. So it creates an adaptive challenge, and it loosens up so you can get things done. So I work with. I hope Justin won't mind me mentioning him because he does a podcast as well. I work with Justin Smith at Cook Children's. And he was part of our first leadership cohort when we were doing health care leadership for that organization. And he was trying to push telehealth. So I loved him because he looked at the model, and I just had the picture up, and he started telling one story after the other about the picture. I'm going, "wow, there aren't many people who can do that." So he really got it, and he was trying to drive it. Well, he was struggling because telehealth was not something people were amenable to. If you know, doctors if you know health care if you know, insurers, if you know pears, I mean all of these things. It's like it's not set up for it. Well, as soon as the pandemic happened overnight,

Scott Allen  15:18  
everyone's an expert in telehealth.

Mary Uhl-Bien  15:21  
So Justin also is in heaven saying, "see!", you know, it's this, this is poised, this technology is poised and was just waiting for it. And I think remote work the same way, people were really ready for remote work. Most people didn't know that soon. But I've been using it for years. So Zoom has been preparing for this, although it's interesting to think about Zoom and how caught off guard they were so we could talk about Zoom in a second. But so what I heard from CEOs is, "I never thought that we could do remote work. In fact, now I'm thinking it's so good. Why don't we need all these facilities?" Yes, we might get rid of the facilities, and I'm hearing of others who are getting rid of buildings and facilities. And apparently, there's a really big warehouse full of Herman Miller chairs. Is that it? Herman Miller?

Scott Allen  16:09  
I think so. Yeah. Are they in Michigan?

Mary Uhl-Bien  16:12  
I think so they make chairs, and they're really expensive. But there's a big warehouse full of them for sale because companies are all getting rid of their model. But a lot of them are getting rid of their facilities, realizing this as an opportunity to do things differently. So it's pretty exciting, actually.

Scott Allen  16:27  
Yeah, I have a friend in a tech company. And he mentioned in passing on a phone call that they had already planned to not renew significant pieces of their real estate, their leases, right. 

Mary Uhl-Bien  16:42  
So well, so now think about the leadership implications of that.

Unknown Speaker  16:45  

Mary Uhl-Bien  16:46  
So now you're a leader. And you have to manage all these people, and they're not around, you don't see them. Yeah. Or my students who are getting ready to go graduate, they are never going to probably step foot in some of these organizations. So they have to start jobs, start their professional career, not seeing the people that they'll be working with. And this is more general. I mean, some people always did that. That's a big change.

Scott Allen  17:10  
It is. So I'm going to run something by you. And let's see how you react to it. I had a student who works in a Fortune 500. And he has been leading remotely for six years, his team. And when this happened, I reached out to him and said, So tell me about this Mike. Tell me about the space and he said, You know what? "It's the same what, but it's a different how." Which is kind of interesting. Do you agree with that? What do you think?

Mary Uhl-Bien  17:37  
I think that's a really cool way of putting it, isn't it? That's exactly right. But I also think the fact that he's saying it's the same what means that I think that leadership has morphed, hmm. Because in the old days, that wouldn't have worked. If you had a control hierarchical, really managerial, authoritarian mindset. That's not going to work. But business and leadership have already changed to the idea that we need to build on relationships. So it's about relationships. It's about empowerment, that's been happening for a long time, and employees taking more responsibility. And I like to talk about this as co-leadership as well or followership, where leaders, individuals together, leaders and followers appropriate leadership that's already out there, and more people know it. So I think he's probably describing that. And then the challenge of the remote is the how I think that's right.

Scott Allen  18:30  
So Mary, I have let's say we have a magic teleportation device that brings you to Delaware right now. And you are placed into the president elect's space, and you have an hour with him. And this isn't a This isn't a commentary on politics right now. This is a commentary on how do you, regardless of who you are, as a leader, think about whether it's social unrest, whether it's digitization in the middle class, globalization, whether it's COVID-19, based on your framework and your mindset, I'm so excited to hear what you'd say to Joe. And you never know where these things go, right. Who knows, you may end up, and then we'll you'll owe me a glass of wine at our next conference, if you end up in Joe's office, counseling the president - okay, is that a deal?

Mary Uhl-Bien  19:32  
That sounds great. Okay, so let me answer this, I want to give you a little bit of background to say that when 2016 happened, people started to understand, people in the US, but also in the world, started to understand complexity more. So if I were to backtrack complexity, the first time I saw it shift, so in 2001, we saw it coming in 2010 is the first time I saw it really shift, and that's because we had had the global financial crisis. So here we call it the Great Recession, but around the world, it's called the GFC, or the Global Financial Crisis. That was a complexity event. And at that time, IBM put out a report of CEOs, and it said the number one threat to organizational survival in the future is complexity. And we as leaders don't know what to do about it. Oh, that was very accurate. They didn't know. They learned really quickly. Then about 2014, I saw another shift. So if in 2010, complexity, let's say the tower fell over, it collapsed, and it's on the ground, and around 2014 or so, it was like the foundations beneath that started to crumble. So now we're seeing real deterioration of the foundations of what we knew about leadership or stability in the world. And that was happening in large part because of social media. So then, in the US, you get Trump in 2016, which is another complexity event that's a disruptive force you hired as a disruption. And interestingly, hired, he was elected. Interestingly, the disruption that's the base, or the individuals who voted him in were against globalization. It was, it was Make America Great Again, let's go back, let's go against globalization. Let's go against all of these people coming in. So they in many ways, they were really talking about going against complexity. They were saying, "let's slow this down. We don't like this complexity stuff. We want to keep our towns the way they are. We want to keep our industries the way they are. And we don't want people coming in who are going to take our jobs. And this globalization thing has been a bad deal for us."

Scott Allen  21:38  
You were Yes, my community is our community. Communities decimated, right. And that's their perception of the lived reality.

Mary Uhl-Bien  21:45  
So what they did was they brought in what they perceived as the greatest disrupter they could, and I heard people describe that as we're "lobbing a bomb," or, you know, "I just want to cause chaos." So they really were so sick of it, they weren't even going into complexity. They were going to chaos. They didn't want order, because they were really trying to get attention. So Trump was trying to do that, but Trump has issues around Trump. So did some things got done but didn't really happen in the way that I think people had hoped. I think that it caused probably some chaotic disruption, but not really anything that's beneficial. It didn't cause adaptability, except on some issues. So now Biden comes in, and he has this situation that he's got to face, and that he's trying to calm this down. So take it from chaos, more to complexity. So he's trying to bring it from chaos down to complexity, what he's perceiving or others are perceiving as that. So his challenge is, he has to figure out how to enable an adaptive process. And what we found in our work is at the core of leading for adaptability is enabling the adaptive process. The adaptive process occurs when there's a push for novelty and there's a push for stability. Those are that's a polarity in organizations theory they talk about Its ambidexterity. It's a polarity. So, or a paradox. So these two things push against each other.

Scott Allen  23:20  
Mary, we have a polarity in. Would it be fair to say there's a polarity in rural America and urban America, that's a generalization, but is that in the neighborhood?

Mary Uhl-Bien  23:32  
let me put it this way. I don't know that I would call that a polarity because a polarity is two things that are opposite that our intention and can't come together. So I wouldn't call it a polarity, but I would call it tension. And what happens in the polarity between the push for novelty and the push for stability is it generates tension. And that's another word for that is stress. Or another word for that is conflict. So when you've got that tension that's occurring, you've got the conflict, what you have to do is understand how to use the tension, how to enable the conflicting - these conflicting ideas, get them to push up against each other, but not just in conflict, they can't stay separate, they have to connect. Yeah, how can you engage the conflicting in a way that you find connecting in it, and it's that process of conflicting and connecting that we call adaptive space? And that's what generates adaptability and adaptive outcomes.

Scott Allen  24:25  
So I've said this to my wife on walks. So now ask the expert. If this is this is relevant, but it's kind of interesting because I've been thinking a lot. I've said it a few times in conversations with friends. What is the type of leadership that works above all of this noise? What's the leadership that works above CNN, MSNBC, the media? What's the type of leadership that works above this and gets us unstuck?

Mary Uhl-Bien  24:54  
That's exactly the right question. Yeah.

Scott Allen  24:56  
And so, something that comes to mind For me, is that if and I said this to my wife on our walk, I said, if Joe Biden comes in, puts only liberals and pushes only a liberal agenda, we will not get unstuck. And if he has tension on the left and a little bit tension on the far right, and if we can get sane individuals to come together and work those issues in the middle, then that might have, because all you're going to do is alienate and piss off 70 million people now. And how do we move past that? Right? It has to be a different way. So I think of that, you know, the classic team of rivals with Lincoln, right?

Mary Uhl-Bien  25:38  
Yes, that's right. So you've got it. I mean, you just described it. So essentially, what has to happen now that that leadership that you're asking about, that's what we call enabling leadership? Yeah. So what it does is it enables the adaptive process, or it enables adaptive space that allows for things to go forward to progress. So you can't keep the polar opposites. If we want to say left and right, right now, left and right are considered. So don't just say rural, urban, I would say left and right have positioned themselves. They've intentionally been positioned that way. And that's politics, because of their interest there, some people have an interest in keeping that divide. Yes. And there's hope that they can get the divide big enough. And then what they do is they use tags and attractors to attract to their group. And then they try to keep that divide going so that they can win. And then when they get in, they do they advance their interest. That's not beneficial to our country in any way, shape, or form. No, it used to have this well, we haven't at times, but we're supposed to have a government that works together. So the bottom line is, Joe Biden has to come in and he has to enable that conflicting and connecting and able the ideas from the different perspectives to clash together, but find a way to connect it Now the key and the model that we've got is, that's the adaptive space. But to get new order or adaptability, you have to get it into what we call the operational system. So the challenge isn't just creating the space for the ideas to conflict and connect, it's how do you get it converted into a new order, which means new laws, new systems, etc.?

Scott Allen  27:14  
Yeah. And it's codified, so to speak.

Mary Uhl-Bien  27:16  
Yes. And that's the role of the government, and they have put stakes in the ground that they're not going to do that. So what do you do? If they're not going to do that? Well, Joe has this challenge. And that's his big challenge is how to get them to work together. If you read the news, you see people saying, well, he's worked with Mitch in the past, and maybe Mitch will work with him through this. I don't know.

Scott Allen  27:37  
I, you know, I said this also, I said, I'm confident that the four of them, you know, minority/majority, both bred both kinds of places could be replaced, and maybe we get somewhere new because that group of four doesn't seem to work well.

Mary Uhl-Bien  27:56  
Oh, but I think they could I think the issue is, you asked the role of media is in social media, not just the mainstream media, but all of this communication that's creating echo chambers is working against this. So we can't really get there until we address the core problem, which is the individuals who are intentionally trying to create a divide, and we already know their foreign forces that's in their interest. And we know that there are other political forces, it's in their interest. So we have to defuse that. We have to stop the "tag," that so let me just explain "tags." So in complexity, a tag is a catalyst for an event, it's a symbol, it catalyzes some kind of movement. And so Trump used his MAGA hat, I put the picture up MAGA, that's a tag, and it's a tract. It's an attractor that brings different groups together. So what Biden has to do is diffuse that diffuse the tag or the attractor that's causing that group to come together. And then the polar opposite, if you will, the left and the right of each other and find a way to create the system for connecting. That's not an easy one.

Scott Allen  29:09  
No, and again, if he's not creating the space for at least where we can come to an agreement on certain issues, to get some small wins to get some energy to build a habit of working with one another. But you're right i mean, with the mainstream media of the language is winners, losers, the inflammatory language that we are consuming, that we are fueling right? It's us we are clicking, and we are making them very, very wealthy through our clicks. 

Mary Uhl-Bien  29:54  

Scott Allen  29:54  
It's, it's just it's so interesting to think about what works above all. Have that And to your point, I love that word diffuses. That energy, because it's an energy, right? It's it's a field, it's palpable, and it's causing people to act.

Mary Uhl-Bien  30:11  
This is why the democrats went for Biden, because they knew they didn't want, they didn't want to go moderate, they wanted to go. I mean, there was a group that wanted to go left progressive. But if you go left progressive in this environment, all you're doing is if you do manage to get in, which we now know, they aren't going to be able to get in, they don't have the numbers, then you just create another polarity. And then the other side takes over again, and you're going back and forth. This isn't ever going to work for us. So that's why the democrats said, "Alright, we see the situation we're in, we'll put a moderate in there and let him try to lead from the middle." But that means there has to be cooperation on the other side. And that's that's the question, will they cooperate?

Scott Allen  30:52  
Yeah. And then and then I do wonder, I do wonder if our system is designed, I mean, obviously, it is. It's designed in a way that is not serving us well any longer. And shifting that is, that's the codification that you spoke of. And wow, a friend of mine from Canada the other day, this has just stuck with me. He said, "you know, in my country, when we turn 18, we just go vote. And you just, you know, I don't know why it's so hard in the US. And yes!"

Mary Uhl-Bien  31:28  
We know their interests that try to make it hard.

Scott Allen  31:30  
Yep. Yep.

Mary Uhl-Bien  31:32  
Oh, I think I think our founders were brilliant and how they set up our government, but I think it's time for an update.

Scott Allen  31:40  
Yeah. Yep. And I, you know, I kind of get tired of the Democrat, Democrat/Republican, Right/Wrong this that because I think you are exactly right. It doesn't matter who the actors are, until another force, in, like you said, brings people in creates that space to work the middle to get some energy to move forward. It doesn't it's just this is going to go back and forth, like a ping pong. So it's, it's almost, I don't know how to explain it better than that.

Mary Uhl-Bien  32:12  
I will also say this if you were to sit people down and look if they really listened to what they wanted. So let's say you did an experiment. And you brought a person in and laid out what they were saying without the inflammatory words. And then you didn't tell a person if that was a Democrat or Republican, I think much closer than you think. Yes. Again, there are media forces, other forces particular leaders within their interest to incite this. And we as a country need to understand that that is happening. I mean, we know that we have a lot of different communication that's occurring in the rural community from in the cities. And something has to be done about that. But the one thing that's got me more positive, I do think there's a lot of local action happening. So I see forces happening at local levels. And if we can get more local change and local adaptations, then that will help.

Scott Allen  33:13  
Well, Mary, let's, let's pause there because listeners' heads are spinning. And that's fun. That's a good place to pause. I can't thank you enough. I always close these out by saying, you know, what are you reading? I asked, guess what they're reading what they're listening to. And it could, you know, David Day was watching a Danish noir kind of TV series called The Bridge. And Ron regio, I think, was watching, you know, Ozark. So it could be something that you're just reading for fun or streaming for fun. But what's been keeping you busy, otherwise?

Mary Uhl-Bien  33:50  
Gosh, there's so many shows on Netflix or HBO? I mean, we've all been renting. So I can't even come up with one. There's so many of them. For me, what I've been doing is I have been watching all of this, because in so many ways, what's happening in the world is blurring into, into the work that I do that I don't know that I have a good separation of personal and, and work right now. Because I'm following complexity. And I'm just pulling everything off. I can just try to find examples to help people see it. And then really motivated to try to figure out how I can help people understand these dynamics. Yeah, the scary thing is the dynamics can be used for bad. So I think I've been holding back because I don't want to help people do this for bad. I want to make sure that if we get these dynamics out that people use, I want to try to at least hope that they use them for good.

Scott Allen  34:40  
Yeah. Because, you know, we could have a whole nother fun conversation about what's the process of training or developing or helping people shift their mindset to seeing the world through this lens.

Mary Uhl-Bien  34:52  

Scott Allen  34:53  
that's a whole nother puzzle.

Mary Uhl-Bien  34:54  
There's a mindset shift, and then there's some different tools that people need. So I'm putting that together now. So that's fun.

Scott Allen  35:04  
Mary, thank you for the work you're doing. I love it. AfterJoe, after your meeting with Joe, give me a call and let me know how it went. And then and then I'll say thank you for helping our country proceed forward.

Mary Uhl-Bien  35:15  
Just make sure you send this podcast to him.

Scott Allen  35:17  
I will do that. Be well. Thanks for all you do.

Mary Uhl-Bien  35:21  
He has nothing else to do other than to listen to our podcast.

Scott Allen  35:27  
Thank you so much, Mary. Have a great day.

Mary Uhl-Bien  35:29  
Thank you.

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