small places, big thoughts

February 1, 2013

My original plan for today had been to get in a days walking in Snowdonia, possibly the Minffordd track up Cader Idris which is the best ascent of the southernmost significant peak.  Its a great circular walk, or a ridge walk back to Dolgellau if you can manage a public transport link.  However a request came in for a meeting at the University which sounded interesting so I agreed to spend the morning there.  As it happened it was a bad day weather wise but more of that tomorrow.
The University already use Cynefin and they wanted to talk about the Pontio Centre and multi-disciplinary work.  Several people had also been at the workshop yesterday and there were some obvious interests in common.  It turned out to be one of those great meetings.  Sat around some battered old tables in the Engineering Department with an artist, engineers, cognitive psychologists and others, the conversation ranged far and wide and was hugely stimulating.  

Now I have long argued that we need to work to restore to education to capacity to create generalists, or better still polymaths.  People who know a little about a lot and have the capacity to integrate different knowledge bases.  Of recent years we have over focused on specialists which means perspective and integrative capacity has been lost.  A collection of specialists can never do the work of a generalist.  We talked about my plan to create a MSc to replace an MBA with multiple 101 courses in things like evolutionary biology and anthropology in the first year or so followed by applying that knowledge to a real world problem.  A much better approach that just studying the same stale cases of the same old blue chip companies on the false assumption that management is an empirical inductive science.  Physics envy as Warran Bennis famously said.

But we didn't stop there.  We talked about the interaction between design thinking and complexity.  About the capacity of small countries to innovate the the possibility for a small university to compete with the giants, not by imitation but by innovative programmes that interact different disciplines with real world problems.

I left refreshed and invigorated, and I anticipate the relationship developing over the next year or so, which is in a sense a different form of coming home.  It will also place me in the way of the Minffordd track and others on a more regular basis.

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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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