Engagement in emergence

September 4, 2014

In my final post (for the moment on conflict) I want to talk about how we engage people in creating a sustainable solution.  One issue with any change is there is a tendency to promise the earth, to set idealistic goals as to what will now happen.  People who have lost hope during conflict are given new hope by peace.  The problem is that this can fail and lead to more cynicism, and a consequent unwillingness to engage.   In part this is because we tend to set over idealist goals and don't have the feedback looks in place to spot early signs of discontent.

Now the use of SenseMaker® to gather stories about the past and to inform negotiators (described in my last two blogs) create a database of learning.   If those systems are kept in place post any settlement then they can give feedback.   They can also be used to capture people's hopes and fears about the future.    That feedback loop allows for interesting innovations:

  • Firstly it allows those who have driven the peace process, and who are now responsible for its sustainability, to get early warning of a potential threat.  It allows them to do small things early
  • Secondly it allows an understanding of the emerging narrative of expectation that the process has created.  These may be over optimistic and can be dampened, or can open up new pathways.
  • Thirdly we can increase engagement by asking people What would we do to allow people to tell more stories like these, and fewer stories like those.  This is a key feature of communication using SenseMaker® which engages people at all levels in ways that instructions like How do we create a culture of legality? which works at too high a level abstraction

The overall point here is that managing the post-reconciliation process is as important as getting there in the first place.

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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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