Around Asia with Cynefin – Sitting at the mouth of the Dragon with Les Hales, Hong Kong

October 26, 2020

I have just finished reading this amazing book cover-to-cover: In the Dragon’s Shadow: Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century.

I absolutely loved the book. It’s written beautifully, and is very well researched. I read it, of course, with the keen interest of someone who is a denizen of the Southeast Asian region, and feeling the tides shifting around me. The smaller regions such as ours have always had to be sensitive to the shifting winds that are caused by major powers. When the giants clash, we are collateral damage. In true complexity fashion, in Singapore in particular, we align ourselves in a manner that best allows us to benefit from these tensions and deal overflows. This is growing to be increasingly difficult as China ascends to superpower. Geography, as Sebastian Strangio suggests, is a “stubborn fact”. The proximity of China is both boon and bane depending on how smaller countries in Asia play their cards. Unlike having to dance to a tune set by the US or Europe, China poses a much closer influence.

Nowhere has this been experienced more acutely than in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region, and its history is a well and romantically chronicled thing of a previous era. Hong Kong had for many years been seen as a gateway into China, particularly through the Greater Bay Area into Shenzhen and beyond. In recent years though, Hong Kong’s landscape has seen many new complexities introduced. In this interview, we speak with Les Hales (wine connoisseur, and Managing Director of CIO Connect) a veteran of managing business relations in Hong Kong. We discuss these shifting tides, and where he sees Complexity and Cynefin being of critical use.

Next Stop: Digital Transformation and Innovation in China, with ThoughtWorks China.

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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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