Cynefin papers: a summary

January 12, 2013

I recently provided a brief summary of the various book chapters that contain my writing.  The idea was to provide a narrative that would allow for easier navigation. I’m now going to repeat that for papers in at least two posts.  This one is on Cynefin articles.  I will then go on to  summarise the reading list.  Now the divide between book chapters and papers is not an easy one and I bundled the HBR article into the last post and will include some book chapters here.  The real difference is one between material that is not available on our web site and that which is!

A lot of the papers are fairly old now, but still useful depending on your interest.  Some have been defacto updated in blog posts but I really failed to keep a running catalogue of those which makes sorting through them a little difficult.   I’m currently waiting for a complete pull of all the material so I can cut and paste material into THE BOOK outline before passing that onto Mary, but I’ll talk more about that in the future.  For the moment lets look at the papers.

  • New Dynamics of Strategy was the first of two papers I wrote with Cynthia Kurtz published in the IBM Systems Journal while we were both still working there.  Its one of the most frequently referenced papers and several people think its the first Cynefin article, which it isn’t.  Its a must read on Cynefin although the basic domains are known-knowable-complex-chaotic rather than simple-complicated-complex chaotic so it combines ontology and epistemology.  That article also introduces dynamics and incorporates Cynthia’s major contribution to the development of Cynefin, namely the network representation of each domain.
  • Complex Acts of Knowing shows the development of Cynefin from knowledge management and uses axis labels of Cynefin linked to types of community balanced against types of knowledge.  It won an award or to and is much cited.  Its the first published paper with the framework in recognisable form, although there are conference proceedings that are earlier.
  • Multi-ontology sense-making was published in 2005 in Informatics in Primary Health Care 2005:12:00.  Its one of two papers with that title, but its the important one.  It indirectly references Cynefin, focusing more on order v unorder.
  • The Origins of Cynefin is a series of blog posts put into a single document.  In them, I summarised the history of the Cynefin framework and I probably need to do a bit more cross-referencing at some stage.  Its of interest if you want to know the background, but its not essential reading by any means.
  • Researching Practice or Practicing Research was written with Annabelle Mark and looks at the application of Cynefin to innovation in health care; challenging some of the research assumptions of that field.  Its obviously of use to people in that sector, but the lessons apply in other domains as well.
  • On Understanding Software Agility was written by Joseph Pelrine and looks specifically at the use of Cynefin in software development.  For those in the Agile community this is a key article and Joseph and I are working on a new training course and other material at the moment so expect this to develop soon.
  • Faith and decision-making in the Bush Presidency is a real delight,  by Louisa-Jayne O’Neill who works in Downing Street it applies Cynefin to the Bush White House and links with Berger’s Sacred Canopy.  Louisa-Jayne was the first person who realised the influence of Rahner on my work.  The sub-title of the article says it all: The God elephant in the middle of America’s living room
  • Shape Patterns not Programmes by Christopher Bellavita of the Naval Post Graduate School as the Socratic version of the Children’s Party story which is just brilliant.  Overall the article focuses on Homeland Security.
  • Performance, conformance and good governance in the public sector sees Peter Bridgeman look at Cynefin in the context of risk management and governance.  He talks about Queensland, but there is not geographical specificity in the lessons he draws.
  • Cynefin, statistics and decision analysis is one of several articles by Simon French of Manchester University.  Simon was originally indifferent to Cynefin but then starting to use it a lot.  In this article he uses Cynefin to create new insight onto different approaches to analytical and modelling methods.  You have to pay for it though.

There is one other book chapter/paper that I missed from the earlier post.  It was the first article to show the current domain labels and is an important one as it shows Cynefin moving on from the Kurtz/Snowden article.  Its Strategy in the context of uncertainty in Patricia Coate (ed) The Handbook of Business Strategy Emerald Group Publishing 2004.  Having finally found it again there is some material in that I want to rework in the near future – probably on the blog.

I know there are a lot more articles out there, so feel free to add ones I have missed.


One response to “Cynefin papers: a summary”

  1. […] Em seu incrível livro “Scrum Essencial – Editora Alta Books“, Kenneth S. Rubin faz uma análise sobre a utilização nos ambiente propostos pelo framework CYNEFIN (Pronuncia-se /quinevin/ com o primeiro i um pouco mudo, palavra Galesa que significa múltiplos fatores em nosso ambiente e nossa experiência que nos influenciam de maneiras que nunca poderemos entender) e segundo ele, o Scrum é bem adaptado ao domínio complexo, pode ser usado, mas não é a melhor opção, no domínio complicado, o Scrum pode não ser a melhor ferramenta no domínio simples, não é uma boa opção no domínio caótico e nem tampouco no domínio da desordem. Mais sobre CYNEFIN pode ser pesquisado em: a leaders framework for decision making e CYNEFIN PAPERS […]

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