Reflections on the next three weeks

July 16, 2007

Its always good to be back in South Africa, and this is a great time of the year up (and yes I mean up) here in Pretoria, with sunny days and frosty nights. South Africans understand Rugby, wine and good food (if you have eaten Springbok or Kudu then ordinary sirloin pales by comparrison). They also understand hospitality which is good and bad. I am staying at an excellent Guest House, which I hereby add to my list of great places to stay. However the landlady can not understand that I am enjoying the cold and keeps coming round to my room convinced that I just being polite and I really do want another blanket. I keep explaining that I am a northern European and evolved for cold climates, but the point is not getting across! This post is a bit of a travelogue, a reflection on work over the next three weeks

I am here to teach a four half days KM programme at the University of Pretoria and in parallel work with Sonja to run an accreditation programme. It will be the sixth three day programme since the 14th June (Singapore, Melbourne, Perth, Atlanta, London and now Pretoria) and I expected to be loosing energy by now. But I am finding it very useful to go over the same material several times. Firstly each audience is difference, so the teaching is different. Secondly as you teach and repeat the ideas condense, you start to see links and connections between aspects of the programme. The net result is a more succinct set of slides and also I plan to record the last in the series (Pretoria) and make the material available in a podcast with the new slides for any accredited practitioners. Assuming that is the technology works!

Its interesting the way that repetition works, it sorts of beds down ideas and as you go onto automatic pilot (as you do, especially telling an established story) then the mind is free to make new and novel connections between ideas and concepts. Its also good when you have an intelligent audience prepared to challenge you (which I had this morning on KM), it expands your own thinking and understanding.

I move on Friday (hopefully with my luggage which has still not rejoined me) to keynote at KM Australia in Sydney and run a workshop with Etienne Wenger which is going to be interesting as we have different perspectives, so the interplay with Etienne and the audience should be lively. I also celebrate the anniversary of my first blog so hope to post something special that day.

After that its up to Lismore to run a Cognitive Edge workshop on Aboriginal education, employment and training on the North Coast. It has been gratifying over the last few years to see the way in which some of the ideas of emergence and narrative have been taken up by indigenous people. We have two current Aboriginal projects in Australia, both on current social issues and there are some interesting contrasts in decision style which I plan to blog on in a few weeks. Interestingly allowing a decision to emerge from conversations (one of the reasons I think our techniques have resonance here) is not about avoiding conflict, creating what a fluffy bunny facilitator would interpret as consensus/disalogue etc, its about using conflict and reflection to allow novel or emergent meaning.

So that over and after a side trip to Canberra it’s on to Washington DC, by way of a 14 hours stop over in Jo’burg and a 30 hours one in London – don’t ask me about the stupidity of airline ticketing systems). There I am on a NSF panel for two days reviewing research proposals on complexity and also plan some meetings with old friends around a couple of possible projects. After that, two weeks of holiday with 15 year old son who wants to take his father on various adventure sports in California. I may not blog much during those two weeks, I may not return ….

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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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