In derrogation of the precious

May 14, 2010

popularity.1.jpg Now taken to excess the message of this offer from Hugh could too easily be seen as an excuse for bad behaviour, but its also all too true. Very few inventors, original artists or novel thinkers have proved popular. Herd behaviour is too often rewarded in our societies and never more than politics, where popularity outshines (I should really say out-shadows) competence. As I get older I get less tolerant of idiots, but I reserve a special place for those who always want everyone to be be nice (the most truly terrible word in the English language.

Of course one should not court unpopularity for its own sake, but anyone seeking to be different needs to be reconciled to the fact that at the end of the day some people will hate you for disturbing their precious peace. As measurement systems swing into place orthodoxy tends to be rewarded over originality. Think of the way academics have to conform with the orthodoxies of the dominant journals in their field.

At a recent session with a few CEOs I has asked for my three ideas that would help them cope with uncertainty. I don’t what they expected but I said:

  • Seek out those people in your organisations or advisory groups who everyone wants you to avoid and given them the time and space to say why. You will waste some time, but you will increase the range of options you scan.
  • If you involve experts in decision making when the field is in a state of fluctuation, always create dissent and contrariness.   
  • Remember it’s the cynics in the organisation who care about it, not the people who are just trying the say the right thing.

To those consultants and facilitators who dislike dissent and seek the safety of bland conformity and consensus; I suggest your problem is that you don’t really understand your field, you can’t cope with examination of your knowledge and you are, to use a very 70s word inauthentic.

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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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