Unlocking the Potential of Highly Complex Systems

 Graphic: Trevor Melton

Graphic: Trevor Melton


The Nelson Andrews Leadership Center supports leaders and communities in achieving the futures they desire. With a world-class facility and collaborative processes, we help people, organizations, and their systems realize their full potential.

Every system has unrealized potential, and high-complex systems often have the widest gap between what’s ideal and what’s real. Although the United States spends significantly more per person on healthcare than other industrialized nations, our health outcomes in some areas are no better—and often worse.

Unlocking the potential of high-complex systems such as healthcare is sort of the intergalactic travel of systems change work. The healthcare system has taken on a life of its own, and woe be to those who prefer it function differently. The stubborn persistence of the status quo in the system creates widespread opportunities for innovations.

An optimistic city that boasts twenty colleges and universities, the nation’s center of healthcare delivery, and the global center of music, Nashville is a perfect-size city to realize potential in any of its complex systems. Yes, we’re a city full of creators and idealists, and if any city can crack the complexity code, it will be Nashville.

So, what will it take?

It will take our believing we can make Nashville a city that works for everyone, a harmonic place where people connect, create, and prosper—without outdated systems blocking our way.

To unlock systems potential, we will build the city’s capacity to exploit processes for systems change. With these processes, we will build a systems innovation capability that matches the complexity of our city. We will share expertise for dealing with wicked problems across sectors. We will transform high-complex systems so they continuously stay current with change.

Our approach shares a state-of-the-art capability for dealing with high-complex systems in Nashville. We will bring into design spaces people who represent all aspects of high-complex systems. In iterative processes, we will collaborate to contextualize relevant variables into new, coherent, and future ready designs. We will create a culture of innovation that unlocks potential and empowers people.

To release the potential locked in high complexity, we Nashvillians will become practitioners of process, scientists of systems, and designers of our destiny!

Fasten your jetpack firmly because there’s no simple way to surmount high complexity. But we Nashvillians will travel to our preferred future—together in community.


Carter Andrews helps businesses and communities improve complex systems. He champions collaborative design that features strong participation by diverse participants. Download his paper Leadership for High-Complex Systems in Future Ready Nashville to dive into the world of complexity.