2022 has been another disruptive year for retail. In particular, the Ukraine war has led to a global cost of living crisis along with many other challenges. A perfect representation of the interlinking, connected, complexity of the world. And the retail industry, or any particular retail company, is no simpler. So it’s essential to appreciate the complex systems and how we can work within these. In this episode, Oliver Banks explores more about complex systems and why you need to start to think about systems in your world.

Listen to the episode to discover:

  • How the events of 2022 have impacted retail.
  • The mistakes that we make when not thinking about the complex nature of the world.
  • And three ways that you can become a better “systems thinker”.

Two excellent books to help understand system thinking

In the episode, Oliver suggested two books to help you learn more about system thinking.

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World - by General Stanley McChrystalTeam of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

General Stanley McCrystal was thrust into a volatile and uncertain battlefield. So he needed to adapt quickly to the varying disruption that he faced. In this book, you’ll learn about how McChrystal adjusted his military set-up to become more agile in the complex war on terror.

“The temptation to lead as a chess master, controlling each move of the organization, must give way to an approach as a gardener, enabling rather than directing. A gardening approach to leadership is anything but passive. The leader acts as an “Eyes-On, Hands-Off” enabler who creates and maintains an ecosystem in which the organization operates.”
General Stanley McChrystal

Thinking In Systems: A Primer - by Donella Meadows

Thinking In Systems: A Primer

Scientist and MIT researcher, Donella Meadows, explores the complex world around us and how systems thinking can help us understand.

“So, what is a system? A system is a set of things—people, cells, molecules, or whatever—interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time.”
Donella Meadows

“Once you start listing the elements of a system, there is almost no end to the process. You can divide elements into sub-elements and then sub-sub-elements. Pretty soon you lose sight of the system. As the saying goes, you can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Donella Meadows

Ready to start understanding your complex system?

Reach out to discuss this podcast episode and how you can start to understand the complex system of your business. Email oliver.banks@obandco.uk or reach out and message Oliver on LinkedIn.

Additional episodes of the Retail Transformation Show to listen to

If you enjoyed this episode, try these other episodes of the podcast. Firstly, listen to episode 174: What To Do When There Is No Right Answer. If you are facing a tricky or unclear situation, it’s likely that you’re battling against an invisible and complex system. Equally, if you don’t understand the complex system, then you’re likely to find it harder to reach clear decisions.

174: What To Do When There Is No Right Answer - The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks

Also, in episode 145: Overcoming Retail’s Big Contradictions, you’ll hear another symptom of complex systems – one of a contradiction. A situation that seems to not make logical sense. Try listening back to this one whilst thinking of complex systems.

Finally, supply chains have been a major focus for many retailers over the pandemic and recent challenges. So in episode 108: Agile Supply Chains In Retail, Gary Newbury shares insight about how you can change and transform your supply chain to relieve the strain.

108: Agile Supply Chains with Gary Newbury - The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks


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