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Judge not, but enable judgement

June 5, 2014

After yesterday's productive session at Bangor University I got the train back to London and took daughter to dinner and also to the opera (the closing performance of the wonderful new composition – The Thebians).  Net result was a post midnight arrival home and I struggled to get up in time to drive to Hermitage for a human terrain mapping discussion then onto Milton Keyes for a key meeting on two current offering developments in Cognitive Edge.   One of these is to use SenseMaker® to provide a more effective feed into Net Promoter Score (NPS) and the other with a similar dramatise personæ to start the process of formalising our knowledge management offering.

Now I will be posting on both of those in the not to distant future.  Its part of a shift to creating more standard offerings that combine SenseMaker® capability with complexity based methods.  The market life cycle has moved on and our offering strategy needs to reflect that much of the work we (and others) have done to establish complexity as a new approach to management is paying off.

One common feature of both those offerings is the need to contrast ostensive reality with idealised objective based design.  The picture which opens this blog is one I put together to illustrate the approach we have adopted over the years on knowledge mapping – something taught on day three of the training programme by the way.  The linked site is to the London course and the last one I will teach for many months.   Now the goal here is to map the decisions people make and the information flows bottom up.  In the early days we did this manually, now with SenseMaker® we can scale to larger volumes faster.  You then contrast what is inevitability a mess network of connections of varying strengths with the neat and tidy diagrams that the process consultants and software designers tend to produce.  In many ears of doing this I have never seen any realistic correlation between the two.  Our approach to NPS is to do the same, capture the answer to the standard question in its convention form, but then contrast that with the underlying narrative pattern of experience realised through SenseMaker®

Now the goal here is not to judge, but to enable judgement.  Sometimes called descriptive self-awareness this process presents decision makers with contrasting factual representations where they cannot challenge the process of creating the representations.  The consultant is not making a judgment, telling people what have wrong, but is rather simply presenting reality in contrasting ways.  It's a modern development of the socratic technique, you ask questions rather than advocating solutions.

Overall its an important principle of effective change in an context, but in the context of high environmental uncertainty coupled with corporate conservative blinkers its vital.   More on the specific approaches in a future post but for the moment I thought I would share the principle.

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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.
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