Liminal Cynefin – image release

November 4, 2017
liminal cynefin image

liminal cynefin image

I decided it would be a good idea to make the image of Cynefin available, if only to reduce the change of people drawing it as a two by two and adding a diamond to keep me happy. Typical Saxon tendency, reducing Celtic curves to straight lines. I’ve made it available in Powerpoint as Keynote users can pick that up – it was generated in Keynote. I don’t know why I didn’t do this before but better late than never. I’ll also aim to add more images later and all of them for black and white backgrounds.

I put some effort here into positioning the liminal domain, but I’ll amplify that in a subsequent post where I add in the dynamics along with bullet points for all the shared domain slides. One point I didn’t make in my last post on the subject was the advantage the liminal model gives to those people who find it difficult to grasp the transient nature of the Chaotic and Disordered domains, even those who don’t see a difference. With the liminal version we now have:

  1. A main chaotic domain which is a crisis, the absence of effective constraint and a liminal area which is where managed innovation and sense-making can place.
  2. A liminal area of the complex domain which allows me to distinguish between iterative approaches (such as Scrum) and parallel safe to fail experiments and emergent catalysts in the complex domain.
  3. A final resolution of the authentic and inauthentic aspects of disorder.

So hopefully this helps and I’ll wait to see if people pick up and use the images. If its useful I will add more over time.

The top image by the way its a cynefin one, in these sense of being a place of my multiple belongings. Its the western ridge from Cadair Idris and yes its me, one of my walks with companions. The next time I’m there will be on the 1st March 2018 on what should be day 65 of my round and back through Wales walk. The final three days are mountain days and the date chosen is significant so I hope that Dylan Thomas’s designation of the mountain will not apply that day.

4 responses to “Liminal Cynefin – image release”

  1. Asher Sterkin says:

    Great images and a really important milestone for Cynefin! The point about straight vs curve lines is also very important. The only one point I would like to challenge is, in my view, too easy dismiss of potential viability of transition between Complicated and Obvious. My own experience with software development and automation suggests that exactly there many interesting things take place. Following the Cynefin core domains classification I would dare to argue that ALL running production software at the moment fails squarely into the Obvious domain. The reason is simple – with all recent hype around AI all what computers could do is to sense-classify-respond. Even with the most sophisticated neural networks software still runs as a closed system, it lacks judgement, experience and professional intuition – all these would be required for performing analysis characteristic for Complicated Domain. Computers could calculate according to selected formula or even to choose one from a predefined set but they could not, yet, choose a suitable formalism for a new problem and this is what experts are, at least in principle, capable of doing. So whenever we want to automate something we basically want to push it into the Obvious Domain. But pure automation seldom exists, neither it should be. In many cases automated processes are augmented with some form of human analysis and decision making (aka Complicated Domain).
    When experts find some recurring patterns they may try to automate its handling by applying Computer (algorithms) or Data (Neural Networks) Science. In many cases human experts still periodically validate the correctness of computer models and constantly tweak and adjust them (this is for example how most recommendation systems work today). Therefore process automation constantly fluctuates between Complicated and Obvious Domains. On the other hand, software development process itself in terms of product/market fit, team structure etc. fluctuates between Complex and Complicated as you have already stated on multiple occasions. These two transitions areas co-exist in parallel which brings up richer and more interesting picture.

    This is how things look for me. If I somehow completely misinterpreted the Cynefin domain definitions I would be happy to know in what.

    Best regards,

  2. Russ Field says:

    With the exception of subdividing Disorder, this line of thinking seems to largely echo the earlier concepts of sub-domains at the borders – in this case, specifically “Complex-going-Complicated” and “Chaotic-going-Complex”. I get the advantage of more formal dissection of Complex-Disorder-Chaotic, but – at the risk of seeming obtuse – can you please help me understand the advantage over talking about sub-domains?

  3. Mark Levison says:

    Dave since you made this available in a powerpoint I assume its ok to use it in a presentation/workbook for Leadership at a client. The question becomes, what attribution/copyright would you like?

    (It wouldn’t hurt if you added the resulting answer to the powerpoint then people don’t have to guess).

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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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