My interest in Cognitive Edge

October 10, 2010

I’ve never written as a guest blogger before. How nice to do something new and I’m grateful to the Cognitive Edge Team for inviting me to participate. You can read more about my work here.

My interest in Cognitive Edge theory and practice stems from its interdisciplinary approach of weaving together useful ideas from Complexity Theory, Ethnography, Human-Centred Practice along with a framing of interpreted cultural experience as its object of study.

I have, for some time, been observing with great interest, what I perceive as a parallel evolution in theory and practice across many formal disciplines, ranging from Management, Organisational Development, to Computational Science. Like the continental drift caused by plate tectonics I have observed shifts in boundaries and intersections across a wide variety of disciplines and wondered, is there some underlying dynamic that connects them?

Each discipline, with its own nomenclature and cultural orientation[1] [2] somehow sees the world slightly differently, just as each individual experience is unique.

Yet among the professional disciplines I have participated in most centrally: Management, Organisational Development, and Computer Science, a consistent movement toward what many refer to as an “emergent” view has been steadily intensifying[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9].

As I have researched further, I have found that my core disciplines are not the only ones to reframe their perspective with a newfound inclusion of has been termed an “emergent principle”. [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] Why, I have have wondered, is the same concept is being adopted across so many systems of practice? From a meta-perspective, could this constant of emergence represent some of evolution of general understanding? And if it is the case that the same concept is being adapted across so many systems of practice, why is it that the various disciplines involved seem not to be aware of their parallel movement? While much of this may well have been kicked off by the formalisation of Complexity Sciences [15], I think there is much more to the story than adopting the latest nomenclature.

I look forward to exploring these questions with you over the next two weeks.

[1] Gold, Rich. 2007. The plenitude : creativity, innovation, and making stuff. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
[2] Schroll-Machl, Sylvia. 2002. Die Deutschen – Wir Deutsche. Fremdwahrnehmung und Selbstsicht im Berufsleben. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
[3] Suchman, Lucille Alice. 1987. Plans and situated actions : the problem of human-machine communication. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire] ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
[4] Wheatley, Margaret J. 1992. Leadership and the new science : learning about organisation from an orderly universe. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
[5] Poppendieck, Mary, and Tom Poppendieck. 2003. Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit. Addison-Wesley Professional.
[6] Mintzberg, Henry. 2007. Tracking strategies : toward a general theory. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
[7] Semler, Ricardo. 1993. Maverick : the success story behind the world’s most unusual workplace. New York, NY: Warner Books.
[8] Freedman, David H. 2000. Corps business : the 30 management principles of the U.S. Marines. New York: HarperBusiness.
[9] Scharmer, Claus Otto. 2007. Theory U : leading from the emerging future. Cambridge, MA: Society for Organisational Learning.
[10] Glaser, Barney G., and Anselm L. Strauss. 1967. The discovery of grounded theory; strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine Pub. Co.
[11] Alexander, Christopher. 1979. The timeless way of building. New York: Oxford University Press.
[12] Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
[13] Keller, Evelyn Fox. 2000. The century of the gene. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
[14] Werbach, Adam. 2009. Strategy for sustainability : a business manifesto. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press.
[15] Cowan. From Metaphors to Reality?. Complexity : metaphors, models, and reality (1994) pp. 709-717

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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.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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