Master Chef’s Needed, Please Apply

February 26, 2011

We now have in hand four ingredients around which we can construct our recipe –
Organizational Learning, Tension, Potential and Intimacy. We’re going to run these through a blender from the Value Networks methodology.

Verna Allee says All Work is Networked and has invented VNA, a powerful tool for demonstrating how we work. For more information about the deconstruction and recipe approach, please see my blog post http://bit.ly/9Binru

We are talking about meta-knowledge, knowledge about knowledge, and some measure of redundancy in the discussion is unavoidable. This type of work is described as “generative metaphors” and “grounded theory” for inquisitive folks who are not familiar with Organizational Learning. A search should readily return some of the many major works and authors who have contributed to our understanding.

We are also wrestling with what is occasionally described as the “bootstrap problem.” Less might be found in this search, confirming that we tend to prefer potential to tension as I’ve mentioned in my second post.

These two clues help to prepare a couple of our ingredients. Tension as we see is firmly anchored to the chaotic domain. Potential is similarly coupled to the complex. Generative and grounded methods are inherently unordered; they seem to defy containment and structure. Yet they abhor chaos as well because I suspect they have as their foundation the principles of appreciation and respect. (1)

Intimacy is safely anchored in the simple domain. These three ingredients throughly surround our target Bureaucracy. Please note that I have as yet not found a critical ingredient that resides in the complicated domain. This may confirm one of Dave’s observations about unequal distribution (I can’t find it readily; it might be from one of the slide decks or private conversation).

With these ingredients together we can constrain Bureaucracy and we have found the means to compensate for its weaknesses. We can now distill the essence of the complex social system. I have found that we can rarely see the full system because it is too complex. What we can see are the two sides of the paradox which in this case is illustrated below.

These two are presence and engagement. I’ve drawn presence from Adam Kahane, and especially his latest book “Power and Love; A Theory and Practice of Social Change.” Engagement comes from the many superb works of Peter Block.

Together they tell us that to make a difference, to do real work –

we need to simultaneously make our presence known and become engaged in the moment in the dialogue.

This is third generation knowledge work.


1. “Appreciative Intelligence; Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn,” Tojo Thatchenkery & Carol Metzker, 2006, Berrett-Koehler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

About the Cynefin Company

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.

© COPYRIGHT 2022. 

Social Links: The Cynefin Company
Social Links: The Cynefin Centre
< Prev

The Black Heart of Bureaucracy

- No Comments

The tension I’ve found is a powerful force, it is felt quite strongly by some. ...

More posts

Next >

Auf Wiedersehen

- No Comments

If you squint at the diagram while standing on our head you might see a ...

More posts

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram