A Symposium

February 9, 2013

Today was a good day, in part due to events in Paris but also for good conversation and good ideas.  I'd gathered together a rather eclectic group of people to talk about creating a new approach to complexity based strategy.  I booked a room at the Bear in Hungerford and eight of us sat around talking from around ten in the morning to four in the afternoon before a sub-set moved to my house to watch the match.  Aside from the victory, it was fun to explain rugby to two dutch football supporters with the assistance of a Llanelli fan!

The trigger for this was the collapse of Porter's Monitor Group back in November.  It was the final weak signal in a chain of events that have convinced me the time is right to move to create a complexity based approach to strategy formulation.  Something that moves away from the consultancy heavy, outcome based engineering approach that too often dominates industry and government alike.  My idea was that we should create a spine of methods and software that independent and in house consultants could adapt to their needs.  An approach that would manage the evolutionary potential of the present, rather than trying to close the gap to some idealised future.  I didn't want to create something that, as a whole, would be proprietary.  I did want to ensure that we created something with quality built in.

We made outstanding progress and expect some significant announcements in the not too distance future.  The basic idea is a scanning capability that uses SenseMaker® to map onto the Cynefin framework and the new domain models before, during and after engagement using a range of complexity based methods with the organisation.  Thats the basic idea, but we elaborated it extensively and there is more work to do.

I suppose the model in my mind was the greek symposium, but without the nudity, excessive drinking, slave girls and the like.  I made sure we had people there who were not engaged in Cognitive Edge and some who were at best loosely connected.  I wanted diversity and a degree of cynicism as well as good humour and straight talking.  However they were all people I trust and that's important.  It means NDA's and the like are not necessary, and there was buy into the idea that a network model might break away from the fierce competitive exclusivity that I have seen in the independent consultancy market since we tried (and in part failed) to create an open source movement around methods.  

I came away convinced that we should do more of this.  The Roman equivalent of the Greek Symposium was a convivium which is a good name.  I shared with my group my private ambition to buy a stone welsh farm, with its courtyard style outbuildings that over looks Porth Trecastell in Ynys Môn.  I swam in that bay as a child and built sandcastles as did my children in their turn.  I want to convert the building into a house and study with enough bedrooms and space to gather people for conversations.  One of these days ….


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About the Cynefin Company

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.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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