Looking back over my notes and doodlings, I spent a lot of time at first in exploring the domains. I looked both within the domains and at various combinations of domains. These initial, fumbled attempts to uncover what makes knowledge simple, complex and so on are a natural part of learning. Simply put, knowledge is build up from many observations. Within the Cynefin framework, my early attempts were akin to what Cynthia Kurtz describes as “contextualization” – looking at the domain boundaries – in her “Wisdom of Clouds” article (1). She describes the investigation within a single domain as a “mini-contextualization” while Dave describes this inner view as an “ontological state.” Without a background in philosophy I have found Cynthia’s explanations somewhat easier to follow.
I found a number of interesting patterns in my experiments. These patterns are useful for orientation, but it seems that most of them do hold up well under scrutiny. The boundaries between adjacent domains are more porous than they seem (2), and naïve attempts to argue have not held up in discussions with Dave and others. Only one observed pattern survived – you can’t cross on the diagonal!
To put this into a rule form, we cannot move from the simple to the complex by jumping over or tunneling through disorder. We can only approach the complex through the complicated or chaotic domains. In a similar way, we cannot move from the chaotic domain of experimentation to the complicated domain of theory (science) without regard for (simple) empirical data or (complex) phronesis.
The disordered domain is more powerful than we think and we may tend to deemphasize it when we think about knowledge management and knowledge flows. We may need to look more deeply at bureaucracy to begin to appreciate the power that disorder exerts.
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