Changing Homeland Security: Shape Patterns, Not Programs

“One day I was looking for information about “open space” meeting technologies. I stumbled across a blog that had a picture of something called “Snowden’s Four Ontologies.” I enjoy ontology, so I copied the picture and then forgot about it. Two months later I rediscovered the picture on my computer. I had a few hours, so I started looking for information about this Snowden guy. I located the Kurtz and Snowden IBM paper. Good. It had more charts. I started reading the paper. It took me a day to go through it. I mean a real, annotate everything day. Every now and then one runs across a paper or a book that helps many of the loose marbles running around one’s head find a home. Kurtz and Snowden’s paper was such a paper for me.

E.M Forster, W.H. Auden, or L. Wittgenstein said “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” The paper is an initial effort to see what the Cynefin Framework can say about U.S. Homeland Security. The bumper sticker summary of the paper is that we who care about U.S. Homeland Security need to learn how to become a partner with an uncontrollable future. We may be able to do this by paying more attention to shaping patterns. As the paper demonstrates, I am still not clear what that means. But my intuition says there is something to this approach. My intuition has been wrong in the past when I come across “great ideas.” But it has also been right sometimes.

I gave an abbreviated version of this paper at a conference a few weeks ago. The first critique I received was that it was cartoonish and anti-intellectual. I of course agreed.

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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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