I'm not a huge fan of De Bono but one quote from him is just perfect: Simplicity before understanding is simplistic; simplicity after understanding is simple. Far too many people render complex ideas simplistic in a well meaning attempt to simplify them without taking people through a process of understanding. I can see why people do this for marketing purpose although I am not a fan of it. Over the years I've seen no end of people attempt to hitch a lift onto things they only partly understand by making the claim that they are making my ideas simple. Ok they have to make a living but they are doing no one any favours.
Now I try not to get too precious about this. Its very common for people when they first come across Cynefin to see it as a two by two classification matrix. I'm OK with that as it has high utility in that form and its a familiar way in to a wider understanding of complexity. But as people get more involved and particular if they have the sort of enquiring mind that goes with intelligence and a willingness to learn, they start to realise there is a lot more to Cynefin. Again that's good, it passes my back of a napkin test: if you can't draw it on the back of a table napkin from memory any framework has little utility. The really simple frameworks then move you greater and greater depths of meaning as you explore them further.
Hopefully that is true of Cynefin. As people get more into the framework they realise three things:
Its this third aspect of dynamics that I want to talk about. There are three dynamics that I would consider as authentic to proper management. That is to say, three that should be constantly present in any organisation or project. There are of course many dynamics – have a look at the Kurtz/Snowden paper for more – some good, some bad, some contextual in value. However the three are important and probably the best way to move away from the categorisation error that characterises early encounters with Cynefin. So lets run through them, and they are colour coded for ease of use.
So an understanding of the dynamic nature of the framework and the transitionary nature of chaos and disorder is the first step after a basic understanding has been achieved. I'm relaxed about when this happens, but I do tend to loose patience if someone persists in offering “simple” presentations of only four domains after many years, especially when they make claims to be an expert on the subject. In those circumstances the De Bono quote is a consolation. Those who confuse making things simple with being simplistic deserve sympathy not condemnation.
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