Complextivity (Episode 69)

Complextivity (Episode 69)

Interview with Angelica Garza, Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive VP at Aeromexico.

Many industries are complicated, but few are more complex than running an airline. As passengers, what we see and experience when we fly is just the tip of the iceberg that is an airline. Logistics, safety, politics, government regulations, airport coordination, advanced technology flying across often dangerous weather – all interconnected, all in real-time.

So how is creativity affected by working in an extremely complex business? That was the theme of the conversation I just had with Angelica Garza, Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive VP at Aeromexico. Aeromexico is the flag carrier of Mexico and the HR aspects of the 16,000 employees of the airline is Angelica’s responsibility.

So how is Angelica thinking about the concept of developing creativity in a complex industry?

The first thing she told me was: “In complex situations you need to think fast and act slow.” In other words: you need to be able to quickly access while considering a vast amount of different parameters, but at the same time be mindful of what and how you change since everything in a complex organisation is connected. (The word “complex” is actually derived from the Latin word plectere meaning “weave” or “braid”. In a complex world everything is interwoven.)

If I were to summarise some of the lessons that I got from discussing the relationship between creativity and complexity from a HR perspective with Angelica Garza I would highlight the following:

– Get people to trust their intuition.

It might sound like a counteraction, but the more complex something is, the more you have to be able to trust your intuition.

– Get people to focus on the “why”?

In a complex situation it is easy, and natural, for people to avoid trying to understand the big picture (it can be seen as scary) so instead people risk zooming in on smaller tasks. But even if things are complex we still need to understand them. By reminding people to focus on the “Why” something is done, instead of “how” it is done it becomes easier to take a broader perspective.

– Encourage people to develop multiple scenarios.

In a simple and certain world you know what the right course will be. In a complex world things are more uncertain and by having multiple alternatives for solutions. Angelica encourages people to develop 3 different scenarios for a problem they are trying to solve.

“To have different scenarios makes me more secure,” Angelica said to me.

After discussing complexity and creativity with Angelica for a while I asked her: “Do you think it is harder to be innovate in a complex world?”

Her answer surprised me. She said: “No. I do not think so.”

She then explained that the ability to innovate is about having the right mindset.

The problem is that many people might USE the complexity as an excuse for why they cannot innovate. There are basically two kinds of people.

a) The people who think a complex industry cannot be innovated because it is complex.


b) The people who think that any industry can be innovated.

A big part of Angelica’s job is to help people who are in the first category get into the second one. Because she believes that is possible – and important.

Or as she put it: “If you have a mindset of innovation then complexity is not an obstacle – it’s a challenge. With a mindset of innovation the complexity is pushing you.”

And the last few years an already complex industry became even more complex. A pandemic, a Chapter 11 process, the war in Ukraine, hikes in oil prices etc. But Angelica is thriving.

To get the organisation to feel and think that change is possible, that innovation can happen, is an important part of leadership according to Angelica. She knows that the more complex the world the higher the demands on the leaders to still have the ability to see further, inspire change, make the right choices and get the rest of the people onboard.

When I ask Angelica about the last part of this – the ability to get people onboard – she emphasises the need for leaders to be in the business, on the ground, close to the business and the people.

Want to innovate in a complex world? Be inspired by Angelica. Develop your “Complextivity” – your ability to get your organisation to still innovate even if you live in a complex world.

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