Designing Ecosystems | A Learning Journey

July 30, 2020

On September 16, 2019, Cognitive Edge was invited to a Research Meeting convened by the Stanford Center for Design Research and the David Ramsey Map Center. In this session, I joined our longtime friend and partner, Ade Mabogunje from the Standard D-school and his colleague, Salim Mohd, the Head of the Rumsey Center together with 15 different experts. The event was convened to integrate perspectives on Innovation Ecosystem and Design Thinking to come together to share insights. 

“The concept for the meeting was a synergy of five realizations. First, from research done by Malte Jung et al. we know that the creative design process depends on two critical actions – perceiving and acting, and two critical objects – a context, and a purpose. Second, to paraphrase the research of Barbara Tversky, spatial thinking is the foundation of thought and, from moving in the world, humans construct spatial maps in the brain which supports maps of time, of social relations, of ideas, and of values.  Third, technology innovations require the confluence of these same constructs viz place, time, design teams, scientific ideas, and human values expressed in terms of proxies such as needs and problems, rewards and risks, credits and debits. Fourth, the David Rumsey Map Center has the facility to prototype and test a variety of ways in which a set of researchers and practitioners can be convened and supported while nurturing the growth of mission-focused start-up ventures and organizations in an ecosystem. Fifth, given the coming challenges of global climate change, there will be a strong need to design, develop, deploy, and test the effectiveness of many such prototypes in the near future. This meeting provided us the opportunity to create and test an early prototype.” [1]

The Dave Rumsey Map Center is a revelation and an amazing place to be contemplating the narrative landscapes and cultural topography that Cognitive Edge was invited to talk about. The Center has put together an introductory video which toys with all the 15 perspectives in what we have playfully named “A Thought Experiment”. Our collective perspectives share a common perspective that shifting into more organic, natural frameworks of thinking are critical to deal with increasing complexity and uncertainty in our lives. 

Back in Sept 2019, we were all still blissfully unaware of the COVID-19 virus that would soon be disrupting all our lives. The video and presentations have just been released and looking back now, we are further convinced of the need to incorporate this ecosystem approach into how we design our systems. 



[1] Stanford Libraries. Innovation Ecosystem and Design Thinking – Visualization Research Meeting. Accessed 22 June 2020

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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.

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


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