‘Real’ speak not academic speak

July 20, 2009

Well having survived a night in the hotel room with a 7 year old who just couldn’t sleep, and an 11 year old that could sleep, but snored loudly, the morning ‘wake up’ call came as a delightful break from the ‘night from hell’! The day at the University of Paris was also a delightful change even though I struggled to stay awake most of the day. Espresso help needed!

As is often the case it seems the speaker session titles promise more than the content actually delivers, which itself demonstrates to me, if I’m honest, the huge gulf in academic ‘speak’ and ‘real’ person on the street discussion. We [academics] seem to forget that we have a language or discourse that most people fail to understand, which even at times other academics struggle with. I know this may sound odd coming from an academic, but having spent the last three years talking to ‘non-believers’ – the frontline workers, who deliver the service – the last thing they want is academics debating why policy shapes practice in micro-elements of human systems, they want to know how, why and when does it start? Having sat through hours of computer based modelling demonstrations, with claims of scientific validity, we need to get real people actually engaged in the field, not bored by discussions on the micro-political power struggles of Marxist complexity thinking in a post-modernist economy via the latest software…… see I was listening! It seems that even in Complexity ‘ego’s’ get in the way of development.

We need to follow the American way and to separate academic debate from practitioners and/or warn both that both types will be present in the discussion.

However, my day was enlightened by a young masters student from the University Descartes Paris, who took me and my girls on a fast and furious tour of the main sites in Paris in a 30 year old Citron 2CV…Wow. Scary, thrilling, educational and downright good fun. This just reinforced to me that in order for the complexity message to really take hold; perhaps our delivery of the subject should exact the same emotion. Indeed after that journey, one thing is for sure, I have the same condition body as that 2CV, crumbling at the edges, bits not working properly and other parts missing all together… Au revoir ‘til later!

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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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