How Engaging Emergence Can Drive Business Growth

Engaging with emergence isn’t just a fascinating concept – it’s a strategic business move. It’s about understanding that individual parts have properties, but they create something different, often greater when they come together. Gleaning insights from Matthew Doan’s work and The Systems Thinker, we’ll explore the importance of inspiring people with a compelling purpose, creating the right structures, and learning from the emergent properties that arise. Understanding and embracing emergence isn’t about following a rigid A-to-B-to-C plan. It’s akin to flying by the seat of your pants but with a parachute of principles and practices to guide you. It’s about staying in the flow and navigating the unknown, even if you don’t know your specific path.

Ultimately, engaging with emergence is about turning upheaval into opportunity. It’s about tearing apart familiar and comfortable notions about how change works and re-imagining and re-creating the organizations, communities, and social systems that serve us well.


Defining Market Emergence

At its core, market emergence is the process through which new markets evolve and come into existence. This evolution is not a linear path; rather, it is a complex, dynamic, and often unpredictable process that arises from interactions within various contexts.

How does this abstract concept manifest in the real world? Let’s consider a few examples. Do you remember the time when smartphones were a novelty? Or when online shopping was just a fringe phenomenon? These are classic instances of market emergence, where technological innovation and changing consumer preferences converge to create new markets. These markets were not designed or planned; they emerged from the complex interplay of various factors. These can be broadly categorized into technology, consumer preferences, and market dynamics.

  1. Technology: Technological innovation often catalyzes market emergence. For instance, the Internet paved the way for numerous online businesses and industries.
  2. Consumer Preferences: Consumer preferences and behavior changes can also trigger market emergence. For example, the rise of health-conscious consumers has led to the emergence of organic and natural product markets.
  3. Market Dynamics: Market dynamics, including competition, regulation, and economic conditions, can influence market emergence. The deregulation of telecommunications, for instance, led to the emergence of competitive markets in many countries.

The emergence of new markets presents both opportunities and challenges for businesses. On the one hand, it opens up new avenues for growth and expansion. On the other hand, it necessitates a shift in business strategies and models to adapt to the changing landscape. Consider the emergence of the digital economy. Businesses that recognized this shift early on and adapted their strategies accordingly, such as Amazon and Google, reaped significant benefits. On the other hand, those that failed to do so struggled to stay afloat in the face of increasing competition and rapidly changing consumer behaviors. Market emergence is an ongoing, dynamic process that shapes the business landscape. It is a force that businesses must not only navigate but also embrace to thrive in today’s ever-changing environment. As the saying goes, “The only constant in life is change.” In the world of business, the only constant is emergence.


Embracing Emergence: The Peggy Holman Approach

If you’ve ever found yourself staring into the abyss of a business upheaval, you’re not alone. As author Peggy Holman points out, these moments of disruption aren’t just inevitable — they’re also growth opportunities. In her book “Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity.” Holman presents a fresh perspective on navigating the complexities of change. This perspective could be a game-changer for your business.

Holman’s approach is rooted in the science of complexity. In her view, the chaotic moments often accompanying significant change are not signs of failure but indications of new patterns forming. It’s like watching a kaleidoscope, where a slight turn can disrupt the existing pattern and create a completely new and beautiful design. This is emergence: order arising out of chaos.

How can businesses tap into this potential for transformative change? Holman proposes three thought-provoking questions to guide this process:

  1. How do we disrupt coherence compassionately?
  2. How do we engage disruption creatively?
  3. How do we renew coherence effectively?

These questions serve as a roadmap for businesses, encouraging them to view disruption not as a threat but as a catalyst for creativity and innovation. By compassionately disrupting the status quo, engaging with the resulting chaos creatively, and effectively renewing a sense of order, businesses can redefine their operations and strategies to foster growth and resilience.

But Holman doesn’t stop there. In her principles for engaging emergence, she provides actionable steps businesses can take to navigate the change process. These principles include welcoming disturbance, pioneering new approaches, encouraging random encounters, and seeking meaning. Each principle serves as a tool, enabling businesses to leverage the power of emergence.

Many businesses have already put these principles into practice with impressive results. For instance, they have used Holman’s approach to foster a sense of community, catalyze initiatives, and create collectively intelligent systems. By embracing emergence, these businesses have managed to turn upheaval into an opportunity for growth and innovation.


The Benefits of Engaging with Emergence

When we think of nature, we often marvel at its ability to adapt and evolve. In the wild, the concept of “survival of the fittest” reigns supreme, with each species constantly adapting to outwit the other. This is a prime example of emergence, a term borrowed from complexity science. The principle of emergence holds that unpredictable events often arise from interactions between various elements, and a single entity or individual cannot control these events. The beauty of emergence lies in its unpredictability and the spontaneous solutions it can generate.

Embracing emergence in the business world is similar to tapping into nature’s raw, uncontrolled power. It is about recognizing that the most effective solutions are often not pre-planned but emerge organically from the interactions and dynamics within a system. It involves creating effective rules for interaction rather than sticking rigidly to predefined strategies. This approach can lead to innovative and creative outcomes that provide a competitive edge, meet evolving customer needs, and drive business growth.

First-Mover Advantage and Meeting Evolving Customer Needs: One of the benefits of engaging with emergence is the potential for gaining a first-mover advantage. Just as in nature, where one animal mutating and adapting successfully can gain an advantage over others, businesses that can quickly adapt to changing market conditions can gain a significant edge over their competitors.

Moreover, emergence can help businesses meet evolving customer needs more effectively. As customer preferences and needs change over time, businesses open to emergent solutions can adapt their offerings more quickly and effectively than those that stick to rigid, pre-planned strategies. This adaptability can lead to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, driving business growth.

Innovation and Creativity within Organizations: Engaging with emergence can also foster organizational innovation and creativity. By allowing for spontaneous and organic interactions, businesses can tap into a wealth of creativity and innovative thinking that might otherwise remain untapped. This can lead to the development of new products, services, and business models that can set a business apart from its competitors.

Take, for example, the case of positive deviants, as discussed by authors Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin in their book The Power of Positive Deviance. These are individuals who, despite working under the same constraints as everyone else, manage to find successful solutions to problems. By embracing emergent solutions, businesses can leverage the innovative thinking of these positive deviants to drive growth and success.

Engaging with emergence is not always comfortable or easy. It involves embracing uncertainty and being open to unexpected outcomes. However, as the rewards of successful collective impact efforts show, it can lead to positive and consistent progress on complex problems at scale. In a world where breakthroughs often come from unexpected places, the ability to engage with emergence is a powerful tool for driving business growth.


Turning Upheaval into Opportunity

Turning upheaval into opportunity is a cornerstone of embracing market emergence. In our complex, fast-paced business world, disruptions can be seen not as roadblocks but as catalysts for innovation and growth. Amid these tumultuous times, new possibilities can be discovered and capitalized upon.

For instance, consider businesses that transformed the disruptive event of a global pandemic into an opportunity for growth and innovation. Companies like Zoom and Amazon capitalized on the upheaval, adjusting their operations to meet the emerging needs of their customers.

Strategic acceptance of disruption and a growth-oriented mindset are vital for such transformations. It is about seeing the chaos not as a threat but as a chance for emergent change and strategic reorientation. Understanding and engaging with the principles of emergence allows businesses to navigate through the chaos and, in the process, unlock new levels of success and growth.

Principles and Practices of Engaging Emergence

Engaging emergence is a concept that, like a compass guiding a ship through murky waters, can help guide organizations through the often turbulent and unpredictable waters of the business world. This approach, championed by Peggy Holman, draws upon a range of principles and practices that, when embraced, can help businesses tap into the opportunities and potential brought about by market emergence.

  1. Principles of Engaging Emergence Openness: An attitude of openness is key. It involves welcoming disturbance, being receptive to new ideas, technologies, and market trends, and embracing the idea that unexpected events and random encounters can lead to innovation and growth.
  2. Inclusivity: Engaging emergence requires the inclusion of diverse people and perspectives. This means fostering a culture that values diverse groups and where everyone, from leadership to employees, feels they can contribute their unique insights and experiences.
  3. Shared Meaning: Creating shared meaning is about cultivating a common understanding of the organization’s mission, values, and vision for the future. It’s about building coherence around the organization’s purpose and goals. These principles aren’t just abstract concepts—they can be implemented through specific practices.
  4. Practices of Engaging Emergence Open Space Technology: This is a method for organizing meetings and events that allow for the free flow of ideas and knowledge. It creates an environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute, fostering creativity, insight, and innovation.
  5. Possibility-oriented Questions: This practice involves asking questions about what’s possible rather than wrong. It’s about shifting the focus from problems to potential, from obstacles to opportunities.
  6. Adaptive Leadership: In complex times, leadership needs to be less about providing answers and more about fostering an environment where people can explore possibilities, learn, and adapt. This means stepping back, creating space for others to step forward, and nurturing a culture of exploration and learning.

These principles and practices help organizations navigate market emergence and foster an environment that is responsive, adaptive, and geared toward continuous learning and growth. By embracing these principles and practices, businesses can transform uncertainty into a source of creativity and innovation and disruption into an opportunity for growth. In the next section, we will explore how these principles and practices can be applied practically within organizations, with real-world examples of companies that have successfully engaged with market emergence.

Practicing Emergence in Sales and Marketing

Practical Applications of Engaging with Emergence

Imagine you’re in a race, not just any race, but a race for innovation and new markets. Now, consider your organization as the athlete. How well-equipped is your organization to stay ahead in this race? The answer lies in your practice of engaging with emergence. If your organization is not in the practice of engaging with emergence, the chances of winning this race might be slim. This is a concept that Business901 has explored extensively. Emergence is an approach that creates new markets by introducing a new product, business model, or idea.

How to incorporate engaging with the emergence into your strategy: Now that we have established the importance of engaging with emergence, let’s explore how businesses can incorporate this into their strategies and operations. The key is to think of your brand as a beacon, creating a “halo effect” in the market: when people think of your brand, they should think, “This is where I would buy this…”

  1. Identify Target Key Customers: The first step is identifying your customers. Who will be the bees attracted to your unique flower?
  2. Product/Service Offerings: Next, determine what product or service differs from what’s already available. This is your unique flower.
  3. Value Proposition: What value does your unique flower offer to the bees? This is your value proposition.
  4. Sales/Marketing Activities: It’s time to attract the bees. How will you market your unique flower?
  5. Resources/Investments: What resources or investments are necessary to grow and nurture your unique flower?

Real-world examples of engaging with emergence: Let’s look at some real-world examples. Companies like Airbnb and Uber have successfully applied these principles. They introduced unique services (the flower) that attracted a new market (the bees). Their success was largely due to their ability to engage with emergence. The importance of continual learning and adaptability: Just as a gardener must adapt to changing weather conditions and learn about the best gardening practices, companies must also be adaptable and committed to continual learning to engage with emergence successfully. They must be ready to learn from their customers, adapt their product or service based on feedback, and continually strive to improve. So, is your organization ready to engage with emergence? Remember, the race for innovation and new markets is not a sprint but a marathon. It requires endurance, adaptability, and, most importantly, the ability to engage with emergence.


Is Your Organization in The Practice of Engaging Emergence?

Tools and Techniques for Navigating Emergence

As we delve into market emergence, just as an expert navigator uses a compass and map to navigate unfamiliar landscapes, businesses need appropriate tools and techniques to confidently set sail into the sometimes turbulent waters of emerging markets. These tools and techniques can serve as a guiding light, illuminating a path through the complexity of the unknown.

One such tool that has been increasingly adopted by pioneering organizations is social media. Used as a platform for collaborative research and interaction with customers, social media platforms like Twitter offer unfiltered access to consumer preferences, behaviors, and attitudes, providing invaluable real-time data. These platforms also enable businesses to stay ahead of emergent trends, providing a pulse on changing consumer needs and preferences.

  • Research tools: Modern businesses have many research tools at their disposal. These range from simple online surveys to sophisticated data analytics software. These tools enable businesses to collect, analyze, and interpret data, providing insights into consumer behavior and market trends.
  • Social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can provide real-time insights into customer preferences and emerging trends. They also provide a platform for engaging with customers and testing new ideas.
  • Collaboration tools: Tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams facilitate communication and collaboration within teams, allowing for the sharing ideas and information, which is crucial in navigating emergent markets.

However, it’s not just about having the right tools. The methods businesses employ to harness these tools can greatly influence the specific outcomes they achieve. A good analogy here would be a carpenter with a toolbox full of tools. The presence of tools alone does not guarantee a masterpiece. The carpenter’s skill at using these tools, and their creativity to use them in new ways, leads to creating a beautiful piece of furniture.

Similarly, organizations need to have a greater capacity for learning and adaptability to use these tools effectively in market emergence. This involves adopting a culture of continuous learning and fostering a mindset that welcomes disruption as an opportunity for innovation and growth. This mindset can be compared to a ‘welcome disturbance,’ akin to how an oyster reacts to a grain of sand, transforming it into a beautiful pearl.

Challenges and Risks of Market Emergence

Entering new markets or segments is akin to sailing into uncharted waters. The potential rewards can be staggering, but so can the risks. As businesses, we often face challenges that can break our market entry strategy. From cultural nuances to political instability and even the wrath of Mother Nature herself, the hurdles can sometimes seem impossible. But fear not. Understanding market emergence can be your compass in this complex journey. Let’s delve deeper into these challenges and risks.

Understanding the Risks: First and foremost, we need to understand that there’s no such thing as a risk-free market entry strategy. Each market comes with its own unique set of challenges that need to be navigated. According to Kadence, these risks can broadly be categorized into three main areas:

  1. Market Research Risks: This involves understanding if there’s a market for your product or whether it needs to be adapted. It’s crucial to know when to invest and when to back out.
  2. Cultural Risks: The cultural impact on your marketing can be profound. An ad loved in Western cultures might be perceived as insensitive in more conservative cultures. It’s crucial to understand these nuances to avoid any missteps.
  3. Natural Disasters: Nature can sometimes be a formidable adversary. Natural disasters can interrupt shipping, destroy property, and even halt market entry efforts.

These risks, however, are not insurmountable. Businesses can effectively assess and mitigate these risks with a solid understanding of market emergence.

Navigating the Challenges: How can we navigate these challenges? The answer lies in understanding market emergence and adapting our strategies accordingly. Here are some practical tips and strategies to help you manage these challenges:

  • Do Your Homework: Research is key. Understand your new market as much as possible before launching your campaign. This can help you navigate cultural nuances, market demand, and potential natural disaster risks.
  • Stay Adaptable: Be prepared to adapt your approach based on data and feedback. The market is always evolving, and so should your strategies.
  • Work with Local Experts: When dealing with cultural risks, working with people on the ground who understand the culture intimately is beneficial. They can help ensure your marketing doesn’t appear offensive or inappropriate.

Remember, even global giants like Starbucks have stumbled when entering new markets due to a lack of understanding of local preferences. But with a thoughtful and informed approach, you can navigate these challenges and reap significant rewards. Embracing the unknown is not just about taking risks. It’s about understanding them and turning them into opportunities for growth.



In the journey of understanding the dynamic world of business, we’ve delved into several key concepts. One that stands out is the idea of engaging emergence, a radical approach to change that breaks with traditional top-down, orderly thinking. Instead, it invites us to embrace the unknown, the uncomfortable, and the unprecedented, turning upheaval into opportunity.

We’ve learned that Emergence is not a process we can control or fully predict. It can be overwhelming, even violent. Yet, when engaged, it can lead to unexpected breakthroughs and valuable innovations. As the Systems Thinker points out, these benefits are foreseeable and tangible in various sectors.

One example is Journalism That Matters, an initiative that convenes conversations among diverse people shaping the emerging news and information ecosystem. This initiative has made individuals feel more courageous and inspired to pursue what matters to them, thus leading to a myriad of new ideas and actions.

But how do we engage with emergence? The answer lies in the principles and practices guiding us in working with the emergence flow. From welcoming disturbance to simplifying and seeking meaning, these principles equip us to navigate complexity. Practices such as embracing mystery, inviting diversity, and hosting emergence further refine our approach.

In the words of Matthew Doan, “In business, you’re seeking to generate value for targeted customers.” This value generation requires shifting from classical management theory to a more flexible, emergent approach. A perspective that allows for forming resilient, synergistic networks that serve our individual and collective needs.

As we conclude, let’s reflect on these insights. How can we incorporate the principles and practices of engaging with emergence into our strategies? How can we cultivate a mindset that anticipates change and welcomes it? As the saying goes, “The only constant in life is change.” So why not engage with it?