1st Edition

Evolvability in Business Enterprise Transformation in an Age of Complexity

By Zhen Goh, Sunil Mundra Copyright 2025
    200 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    200 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Through the unique combination of evolutionary biology and management theory applied to business cases, and keeping in mind that organisations are fundamentally human systems, Goh and Mundra propose organisational evolvability as a new frame to guide enterprise transformation and change.

    Some of the topics covered in the book include: Understanding the differences between Complicated and Complex; Moving from Planned Change to Emergent Change; Applying principles of evolution to enterprise evolvability, and how to operationalise it using a Sense-Adapt-respond loop; Identifying and addressing Sensemaking gaps; including different approaches to scaling and repaying organisational debt; Measuring outcomes under conditions of complexity. This book proposes that transformation is not a one-and-done event but a continuous process of adapting to a dynamic and unpredictable environment. The goal of transformation should be to enhance organisational evolvability - the capacity of a system for adaptive evolution. This book encourages leaders and practitioners to view organisations as open and complex adaptive systems and provides frameworks that help them to manage transformations with adaptive grace.

    A perfect volume for managers, executives and leaders at companies of all sizes. It will also be of interest to instructors in executive education, as well as scholars in organizational studies and business management. This book is for anyone seeking to create a culture of adaptability and change.

    1. Evolvability – the capacity of a system for adaptive evolution

    2. There is your roadmap, and then there is what really happens

    3. Enhancing Evolvability

    4. Paying back and Paying forward

    5. Conclusion 


    Zhen Goh is Founder of The Emerginarium. She has close to 20 years of experience in applying sensemaking and complexity, and co-authored Cynefin: Weaving Sense-making into the Fabric of our World. She believes that “knowledge is a martial art”, and is passionate about supporting just and meaningful transitions.

    Sunil Mundra is Principal Consultant – Advisory at Thoughtworks. His area of expertise is Transformation and Organizational Change. He is the author of the best-selling book Enterprise Agility – Being Agile in a Changing World. His current area of interest is working with senior leaders to enable them to enhance agility in their enterprises to deal more effectively with a highly disruptive and complex environment.

    "I highly endorse this book as an exciting resource for navigating the challenges of today's rapidly changing and uncertain business landscape. By combining evolutionary biology and management theory, the authors offer a fresh perspective on enterprise transformation and change. They emphasise the importance of recognizing organisations as fundamentally human systems and propose the concept of organisational evolvability as a guiding framework. The book covers a range of crucial topics, including distinguishing between complicated and complex, embracing emergent change, and operationalizing evolvability through a sense-adapt-respond loop. It also addresses sensemaking gaps, scaling approaches, and measuring outcomes in complex conditions. This book is a must-read for leaders and practitioners seeking to enhance their organisation's adaptability and thrive in a dynamic environment."

    Emmanuel BucallieHead of Platforms and Transformation, Bank of Singapore, Singapore

    "My first encounter with Sunil, as YOOX's new Co-General Manager, was unforgettable. Tasked with leading an '(Agile) Transformation,' I quickly learned the enormity of the challenge. My question about its duration was met with Sunil's enlightening, 'Never, Irene. It never ends.' This book distils lessons I encountered in my leadership journey and introduces new insights for thriving in change. It underscores evolvability and continuous learning as keys to success, offering real-life examples and actionable frameworks. A valuable resource, I'm eager to share it with fellow leaders. Thank you Zhen and Sunil for this enlightening gift."

    Irene BoniBoard member, Angel Investor, Italy

    "Evolution, Enterprise, and Transformation - all of these are complex subjects by itself. Combining those three with a single purpose is even harder. This book from Sunil Mundra is a gem filled with a practical approach to achieving transformation in an enterprise. This book effortlessly brings all three together with a logical sequence and explanation along the way to achieve the same. This is a must-read book for courageous leaders aiming to transform the business in the complex business world today."

    Mahesh BaxiGo-founder and CEO at Provus Inc., USA

    "A definitive must-read for those dedicated to guiding their organizations towards a sustainable future. Sunil and Zhen present a compelling argument that authentic organizational agility does not hinge solely on periodic technological updates, but rather on ingraining a culture of perpetual adaptation and evolution deep within the organization's DNA. In today's tumultuous business landscape, leaders find an indispensable guide within these pages. Offering profound insights, the book illuminates pathways for organizations to not just survive but thrive, through the cultivation of adaptability, experimentation, and continuous learning."

    Thierry ThibaultManaging Director, Societe Generale Insurance, Germany

    "As a venture builder, I recognize the critical importance of designing organisations that can thrive in uncertainty. This book offers a powerful framework for entrepreneurial leaders seeking to create adaptable, resilient companies. By embracing the principles of evolvability – rapid experimentation, decentralised decision-making, and continuous learning - startups can become living organisms that evolve in harmony with their environment. The authors provide actionable insights for fostering cultures of innovation and building businesses that can scale without losing their entrepreneurial essence. An essential guide for any founder looking to build enduring ventures in a world of constant disruption."

    Arunthep SangvareethipFounder/CEO/Venture Builder, Emetworks, Thailand

    "Enterprise transformation is an ongoing journey for all organisations. Having worked with Sunil on various projects, his insights on how such transformation can be managed or orchestrated is a must read for C Suite leaders as it provides new perspectives on how various parts of an organisation are interconnected as a larger, more complex ecosystem that is constantly changing. Leaders must understand and be equipped with the right mindset on how they can best manage constant change to steer their organisations successfully in today’s volatile landscape."

    Nicholas LeeCEO, EZ-Link, Singapore

    "Both a former colleague and master in complexity theory and practice, Zhen offers a profound exploration in 'Evolvability in Business,' shedding light on the imperative themes of transformation in our increasingly complex world. Through her insightful introduction of the term 'evolvability,' Zhen prompts readers to contemplate the adaptive capabilities of organizations, teams, and challenging subjects. In this illuminating work, Zhen navigates the intricate terrain of decision-making amidst a plethora of established and emerging methodologies, urging readers to discern what best aligns with the current moment and context. She deftly guides us through complex concepts, such as the Vector Theory of Change, disciplined nesting, sensemaking gaps, and organizational debt, all while addressing the omnipresent concerns of scale and measuring change once it occurs. Zhen's narrative is akin to a captivating dialogue with a cherished mentor. Her rare ability to translate powerful concepts with clarity and precision imbues the reading experience with the joy of learning from a trusted teacher. 'Evolvability in Business' is not merely informative; it is an inspirational journey that propels readers to delve deeper into the realms of enterprise transformation. With Zhen as our guide, the path forward is both enlightening and invigorating."

    Ian MacdonaldHead of Applied Complexity, Itau Bank, Brazil

    "Change and transformation feature strongly in all business conversations today. Changes come faster, bigger, and are more interconnected and unpredictable now than ever before. How we respond and manage through constant uncertainty provide the competitive advantage for leaders and organizations. As a person who makes a living helping companies navigate this journey, I believe having a strong understanding of complexity theory, the perspective it offers, and the unique tools it provides leaders is essential to success. This is why I am so grateful for the insights that I have gained from my relationship with Zhen Goh. We have spent countless hours exploring these topics, and I have learned so much from her about the concepts and applications of these methods. For many people the complexity perspective is intuitive and clear. For others it is a struggle. Those people lucky enough to find this book will now have access to the same insights explained in simple, clear, and practical terms. This book is a beacon for leadership success, and I will be making it a key recommendation to the business leaders with whom I work."

    David William LeeChange Leader and Consultant & Managing Director, Prosci, Singapore

    "Change and transformation are ubiquitous to business. But so too are the seemingly intractable issues that come with it. This book provides a refreshing new perspective on how to create organic, sustainable change, blending academic insights, management theory and corporate experience to give leaders a guide to the right attitude and approaches needed to truly engage with the human systems that make up their organizations. While many of the ideas in the book may seem intuitive – listening to your people and meeting them where they are, for example – they are rarely put into practice effectively. The book will challenge existing views on transformation, help make you comfortable with embracing uncertainty, and ultimately leave you with a new set of tools to enable enterprise transformation."

    Nitish UpadhyayaDirector of Behavioral Insights, London, UK