Cynefin strategy & building resilience

January 23, 2013

For the last year I have been experimenting with what we (foolishly) called an advanced course.  I’ve taught it now for the best part of a year, both on my own and variously with Michael and Tony.  In parallel with that I have been developing the various domain models of Cynefin.   It was nice to hear someone at the course last week in Halifax describe the complex domain model (with evidence replacing coherence as the z axis) as one of the most useful frameworks she had seen.  All of the domain models are entry points into the overall Cynefin concept.  They both lead to it and flow from it.   I also updated the leadership characteristics of the HBR article and have just produced some much improved action forms for the complex domain.  So there is a lot of new material there, and most of it is aimed at getting people onside in a pragmatic, incremental step approach.

Of course we also had the Gartner report with its statement: By 2016, the Cynefin framework will be used in 10% of IT operations organizations as a sensemaking methodology.  All of this seems a tipping point so I am also working with some colleagues on a complete strategy process including SenseMaker® that I hope to launch for the second quarter.  The former advanced course, now the Cynefin Strategy and Resilience course is a key part of that.

Next up is Amsterdam from the 7th to the 8th of February (yes two weeks time) and will be jointly taught by myself and Tony or Michael (that is not settled yet) so a good chance to get involved.  No pre-qualification is needed other than reading the HBR article.  The programme falls into two sections:

  • DAY ONE: Cynefin, domain models in detail with exercises. Dynamic nature of Cynefin.  Operational roll out of the Cynefin.  Fractal (self-similar management) at all levels, leadership models and behaviour for complex situations, ABIDE.
  • DAY TWO: Building resilience, new organisational forms, creating response networks, building capability for ordinary purposes that can be activated for extraordinary need, mapping knowledge flow between decisions bottom up.

So if you are interested book now!   Use the Gartner report to justify the investment even if you are not in IT.  If you want to know more just ask.  At the time of writing we haven’t updated the course description but we will.  I’ll also be bringing in some of the thinking on other techniques like Theory U which I will be developing over the next week.



  • I enjoyed the brain-stretch at the Advanced Practitioner Class and I appreciate very much the balance of strong academic theory and grounded practical approaches. Both theory and practice are continually informing the work with my clients
  • The Cynefin model has subtleties and nuances which are not easily accessible to the casual reader. The advanced programme with David Snowden is all about developing insights that challenge the deeply rooted thinking patterns that have been ingrained by years of conventional thinking from both education and business and management literature
  • The Cognitive Edge Advanced Practitioner Class was a good mix of theory and practice. The venue Cognitive Edge selected was a great environment. There’s not many classes where I come away feeling that I’ve developed my capabilities further. I did on this class
  • The Advanced Practitioner course was a great example of how Cognitive Edge ‘walks the talk’ of equipping people with management tools to address the complex space. Dave and Michael weren’t rigidly stuck to sharing ‘best practices’ of the CE toolkit – rather we had a space to engage in co-creative learning with them and together as participants. This allowed me to take the most out of the 2 days we had together and form connections with the participants that I have already tapped into after the class
  • I was looking to be challenged and extended and the Cognitive Edge 2 day Advanced Practitioner class certainly delivered. I found the balance between a strong conceptual base and pragmatic, implementable actions very useful

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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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