August 27, 2009

I have been absent from the blogosphere for two weeks for which apologies, a combination of a punishing seven week schedule and a long period without any break or holiday. It looks like the best I will manage this year is some snatched weekends in between work. Some of that in interesting places, Halifax for instance in a few weeks time (and I don’t mean the former wool town in Yorkshire although that has its charms). I fly back to the UK tomorrow night, meet daughter at the airport who is returning from an even longer trip to Australia and Bali before finally going to University. I then have a frantic week of administration which has been too long postponed, so normal service will probably not return for a week or so yet.

I’m writing this on the terrace of a guest house in Pretoria at the end of two weeks of teaching. Its not yet Spring here so everyone thinks I am mad to sit outside in the early morning (and they have refused me access to the swimming pool). However I find it easier to write outdoors. I remember a similar experience in Gold Reef City a few years ago. I got carried away that day and only realised that it was dark when I found my fingers refused to respond to instructions as they were white with cold! Overall It’s been a good couple of weeks, set up by Richard who has now left IBM and is more or less full time at the University. A changed man for the experience, with a really good relationship with his students.

It’s also been a chance to work with Aiden and Sonja (our current guest blogger) of Narrative Lab on some projects and prospects. I am also eternally grateful to Sonja who lent me here vodafone modem when the internet failed here for week two. In half an hour or so I will start another meeting looking at using complexity theory to do something radical about educational achievement here. I came up with a series of ideas a few days ago and the follow through is today. One of the more interesting is to create a Grameen group for learning. The basic idea is that you get your bursary as a progressive series of payments only if you form a learning group with other people in your community and you all take responsibility for each other group members completion of whatever education programme you take. More on that as we develop the opportunity. There is a lot of hope out here, more than two years ago and much promise. If Cognitive Edge can make any sort of contribution to that I will die happy.

Thinking about it, that is a technique that could move sideways into knowledge management and learning in organisations. Teaching is also a way of thinking (or at least it is for me), and I have been playing with a series of ideas relating to both the Handy S-Curves (see below), a complexity based approach to services marketing and an integration of Power Laws with my own narrative work. At the same time I have been updating work on knowledge mapping, using the latest capabilities of SenseMaker™. Lots of potential here around outlier events. More than enough material for a few serious blogs as soon as I get time!

The intellectual stimulation of good company makes novel thoughts possible. The picture here is from last weekend where a group of us ended up on a Game Farm. Ok we saw some Antelope some Giraffe at a distance and there was rumour of Rhino. However the real value was sitting around a fire (pictured) talking about systems and complexity, with the odd check on the test score (apologies to all Australian readers here). There was a rhythm and a ritual to this. Beer and Biltong while the wood burnt to ash, then the ash was shoved onto a concrete tray for the Braai. Never ever try and be a vegetarian in South Africa!

Latest version of the S-Curve model

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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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