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Cynefin & Wardley Maps: recordings from a masterclass exploration

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We live in a whitewater world. Change is rapid, and uncertainty is unavoidable. Leaders need the ability to navigate their organisations in these conditions.  Old platitudes and tools are losing efficacy: we need frameworks and approaches developed for the deft management of uncertainty. How do we make sense of the world so we can act in it? And, how do we find some way of mapping our challenges to develop a business cartography that allows us to orient and advance?

Two approaches gaining popularity are Dave Snowden’s Cynefin™ Framework and Simon Wardley’s Wardley Maps. Many people have found these useful separately, but increasingly people are exploring the potential synergies as they both provide valuable sense-making capacity in strategic and operational work, across a broad range of applications. Maps, frameworks, methods and manifestos all have their role and function in organisation theory and strategy, and understanding the differences and connections between them will be important as we enter times of increasing uncertainty.

Dave Snowden and Simon Wardley joined in a seminal two-day exploration of the synergies and potential collaboration between these two approaches in December 2018.

The recording of this event is now available as a series of 25 videos available for online viewing.


Session 1. Length: 20:25 An introduction to the rationale behind Exploratories, and the connections that will be built between the Cynefin Framework and Wardley Maps throughout this series of recordings.

Session 2. Length: 15:16 A further elaboration on some dominant themes for the upcoming sessions including consciousness, genetic adaptability, commonly misunderstood terms, and an explanation of anthro-complexity.

Session 3. Length: 16:29 Covering the different schools of sense-making and naturalising sense-making, the characteristics of different types of systems, a discussion of the drive for order and the first part of an introduction to Cynefin.

Session 4. Length: 18:53 Cynefin continued, with emphasis on Dark Constraints, Coherence and the process of parallel experimentation and the characteristics of the Obvious, Complicated, and Complex Domains

Session 5. Length: 10:36 Final part of Cynefin: The domains of Chaos and Disorder and the liminal version of Cynefin.

Session 6. Length: 14:00 The implications of Cynefin for the understanding of Complex Adaptive Systems and organizational development and a summary of the essentials on complexity.

Session 7. Length. 16:31 Constraint mapping as a method for creating change in complexity and the difference between robust and resilient constraints

Session 8. Length: 20:20 A typology of scaffolding, granularity and scaling, mapping fitness landscapes and what that means for our theory of change

Session 9. Length: 22:10 Assessing risk and the possibility of forecasting. Apex predator theory in combination with market lifecycle theories and Moore’s Crossing the Chasm.

Session 10. Length: 19:28 Simon Warldey introducing Wardley Maps and the story of how they were developed through his personal journey. What makes a map.

Session 11. Length: 19:02 Simon Wardley on adding the element of movement to a map through evolutionary stages and a discussion of how these stages can be measured.

Session 12. Length: 19:00 Simon Wardley on the role of maps in allowing communication about the environment and the impact of that ability.

Session 13. Length: 18:30 Simon Wardley on seeing and interpreting patterns, and an exploration of the terminology around mapping and the relations between mapping and sense-making.

Session 14. Length: 15:26 Discussing a fluid and context-specific understanding of assets and reflecting that on a map. From min. 10:15 onwards discussion over break, skipping recommended.

Session 15. Length: 18:07 Simon Wardley on “Climate”, the patterns on a map that you have no choice over, and the patterns that you do have a choice on, “Doctrine” (universally useful) and “Gameplay” (context-specific).

Session 16. Length: 18:14 Simon Wardley on anticipating change, a deeper dive into “Doctrine”, universally applicable principles and patterns.

Session 17. Length: 19:35 Simon Wardley on organising with Wardley Maps and integrating evolutionary flow in the organisation: Pioneers, settlers, and town planners.

Session 18. Length: 19:18 Innovation and evolution in Wardley Maps compared with the Cynefin dynamics and a discussion of relevance to market phases.

Session 19. Length: 19:35 Simon Wardley on timing and when are we likely to see evolutionary shifts.

Session 20. Length: 20:12 Simon Wardley on choice: climatic patterns that make evolution a necessity and the space for choice.

Session 21. Length: 19:04 Anticipating patterns from existing trends on a map and their limits.

Session 22. Length: 11:49 Constant change and the force of inertia.

Session 23. Length: 19:53 Dave Snowden, Simon Wardley and the participants in discussion about strategies for complexity.

Session 24. Length: 08:54 Making decisions: Simon Wardley on anticipating the points of change, using multiple scenarios in order to outmaneuver competitors and drawing parallels with Cynefin.

Session 25. Length: 19:52 Variable patterns and dealing with variability and diversity as data: combining Wardley Maps with IT tools.

Session 26. Length: 18:55 Uses and limitations of digital capabilities and free-flowing discussion on working with people and the value of maps.


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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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