The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the immediate and practical value of a new way of thinking about organizations – not as machines, but as living things. The article contrasts an old view of organizations as machines with a new view of them as living things. It suggests that an “emergent” approach to setting strategy is one consequence of the new view. It then explores the power of fostering “emergent strategy” in two real‐life cases, one each from the corporate and community sectors. Finally, it details process steps and results. The author shows how two organizational development processes foster “emergent strategy:” “Open space technology” and “Grounded visioning”. “Open space technology” helps develop breakthrough strategies in business challenges that are complex, urgent, require diverse thinking, and spark conflict. “Grounded visioning” helps create a shared vision among large, diverse, and conflicted sets of stakeholders in record time. Senior leaders now have tools for finding strategic direction with large, diverse groups in complex, fluid, and conflicted situations. This article demonstrates the value of “emergent strategy” as an alternative to traditional, directive strategy setting processes used by senior leaders. It presents real‐life case examples from the corporate and community sectors in which this idea is put to use with spectacular results. It introduces senior leaders to two innovative organizational development processes – “Open space technology” and “Grounded visioning” – which they can use in their organizations to tap the natural intelligence of their people.
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