A curmudgeonly Christmas & a critical New Year

December 22, 2014

I’ve always had an intensive dislike of saccharine approaches to anything in life, closely followed by a dislike of platitudes paraded as objectives, idealised models of behaviour and all sorts of things that confound and confuse real progress.  The problem is that some well intentioned people find it difficult to believe that the cynics are the ones who care in organisations.   I’ve had a surfeit of this nonsense of late, along with the ​all approach are equally valid and other nonsense promoted by snake oil sales people caught out in practice or theory.

I was thinking about what to blog about over Christmas and I came across this example of the sort of thing that needs to be torn apart for the sake of its creator as much as those on whom they might perpetrate such nonsense.  So a day of thinking and some good responses on twitter and I am resolved to write an attack blog for each of the twelve days of Christmas (start with St Stephen’s Day as I like that tradition).  As I thought about it I started to develop a typology that would allow be to create some partial coherence to the various witless approaches that are out there, which would respect some of the positive aspects.

So my current list of subjects (with some indication of my thinking on typology) are listed before,   More candidates or examples appreciated!

  • Clear pseudosciences such as NLP which have the added perniciousness of snake oil sales people in abundance
  • Hierarchical techniques of enlightenment such as Spiral Dynamics which started with some interesting ideas but then with the Beck split and more recently the Beck-Wilber link has gone over the edge
  • Things that started off well, like Appreciate Inquiry but then became subjected to idealistic or manufacturing approaches
  • Approaches which are wrong a priori such as SAFe in Agile, you don’t scale a complex system by aggregation or repetition
  • KPIs and other measurement techniques that focus on defined outputs and which in general create servers results
  • Design thinking which has moved from an artisan to a manufacturing approach and lost much in the transition
  • Anyone teaching people to tell a better story (its called propoganda)  rather than allowing narrative patterns to emerge through action and interaction
  • Creating a single brand rather than contributing to the body of knowledge (anti-fragile is really part of the resilience literature for example)

I may or may not include all of those, and I’m looking for more …..


Picture credit to this music site

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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