Musings in the cold

July 5, 2016


An interesting couple of days In South Africa. Yesterday we ran a small, invitation only session to discuss some of the new thinking on dispositional systems and their implications of a new Theory of Change. Today I presented some aspects of that to the Stellenbosch University Winter School before heading over to the 12 Apostles hotel to prepare for a workshop tomorrow. The workshop themes ran over into a meal with Sonja and Shani; my second visit to the Graff Estate. The previous night huddled around a wood burner in the freezing cold Sustainability Lodge we had focused on Game of Thrones; well Shani and I did, Sonja has “proudly” never watched an episode.

So what did we discuss? I don’t have the time to elaborate on what was an extensive (and recorded) discussion but I thought it useful to provide a high level summary. A lot of this will then be developed on Thursday when I am running a course in Rosebank. The agenda was mainly set by the participants, all of who have various levels of experience with Cognitive Edge over the years.

  1. The use of enabling constraints as a governance mechanism under conditions of uncertainty.   I’m using the metaphor of an endoskeleton these days to explain this.   An exoskeleton contains but an endoskeleton provides coherence while allowing significant variety of expression.   Heuristics backed up by parable based stories is one method I developed here and that is expanding in utility.
  2. A long discussion on the nature of and utility of identity which is one of the critical developing area of my work both in theory, but also in terms of the use of SenseMaker®.   There are various ways of looking at identity.  One is to see it as a sort of spider diagram between modulating roles, but it could also be between behaviours or other factors.  The importance of that is the ability to manage to identity not to category or to individual.  Expect a lot more on this in the next year. I’m also playing with the idea of micro-biomes here but that is an after thought.
  3. I worked through the whole approach to ABIDE and ASHEN mapping in the context of strategy (maps available and this is a large part of day three of the Cynefin and Sense-making course for those interested. It is a fairly risk free process for either understanding the knowledge assets of an organisation or mapping its strategic competence. Critically it focuses on action based interventions linked to things that are keeping decision makers awake at night so we get early wins. However we also get an ongoing mapping system.
  4. A lot of time was spent on the various organisational development offerings, from Culture Scan, through Leadership Journey to alternatives to KPIs using Vector Measurements in SenseMaker®. I’m planning to write that up as a full offering soon but the various elements are available now.
  5. The use of MassSense to provide a real time approach to overcoming inattentional blindness is a common element in most of my presentations at the moment. It is also something we will make available shortly as a standard service. But one thing which came up in the session which is really interesting is using it to create adjacent possiblesin a dispositional map. Now that I am going to work on.

We went through more than that over the course of the day, and my early afternoon the room was warm enough to take off gloves! I realise it is a little cryptic but this is a post of record and the various items will be expanded on – also if there is specific interest get in touch. I’ll also be discussing them at webinars for premium members over the next year.

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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.


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