Learning: the why and the how

August 14, 2012

I've been enjoying myself at various client meetings here in Singapore demonstrating the new SenseMaker® app on the iPhone and iPad: expect a lot more on this soon when we launch, probably with a free project for network members.  It will allow us to create citizen journalists, a pet idea and passion of mine for some years now, but as I say consider this a teaser more details later.  The point that is relevant to this post is that demonstration and the ability to play with something makes it real, but (and this is critical) the idea has to exist first and be understood by enough people to make it real.

Now the context of this was my reflecting on the new advanced course.  About to see its 4th and 5th outings in Melbourne and Auckland (where it is coupled with a foundations course) in the next few weeks.  These are probably the last two occasions where I will teach it, certainly the last occasions in Australasia so book now to avoid disappointment!  Now I say that, but it may work the other way around.   When a course is under development it changes and flexes, and it tends to be more theory based.   I certainly use them to explore new ideas.  The growing body of work (see recent posts) on creating sub-models for complexity based on decision maker buy in and degree of coherence are a part of this.  Generally as the course material stabilises two things happen.  The content reduces, exercises increase and at that point I can hand on the able colleagues such as Michael (who is already co-teaching it with me).  At that point people who like more structure and experiential learning are happier, those who like more fluidity and are happy with understanding the why without the need to practice the how become disappointed and I start to get emails asking when I will run the course again.  That provides a counter weight for those whose feedback during the development stages was more negative!

The two learning styles are interesting.  I know when I attend events I want to know the why more than I want to practice;  I can sort that out later.  For others that is anathema.  I always find it interesting that people who favour the more practice orientated are more inclined to argue that their preference is universal, and they tend to write the training manuals.

Either way, the Advanced Course is moving to a neat balance between the two.  I am taking out some content after the first three, and increasing the discussion/practice elements.  We now cover:

  • Links between complexity theory and risk assessment
  • Exaptation (and I will compete the third post in that series) or managed serendipity
  • A summary of differences between Systems thinking and Complexity theory in practice
  • Extended consciousness looking at implications of new theories of cognition for the organisational and project design
  • Creating and maintaining social networks for problem solving
  • Designing complexity based interventions, including a revised ABIDE model
  • Mapping interventions against business objectives and portfolio approaches to projects
  • New organisational models – crews, ring and hub networks, spans of control etc.

The examples should appeal to KM practitioners, AGILE guys, Strategy wonks and Organisational Change agents and anyone else generally interested in the application of complexity theory to government and industry alike.

Credit as ever to Gaping Void for the cartoon

PS: For those waiting I still have a few retro-posts to slot in for the early part of August (CalmBeta, Wikipedia 7th Anniversary as an editor  and three great walks) but I've ended up with blogging droughts before waiting for time availability to enable intention to be realised so I now purpose to carry on regardless as evidenced above!

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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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