Some irritations

July 13, 2009

I am in a curmudgeonly mood at the moment for a range of reasons, so I am venting a little here but somethings just irritate the hell out of me, so here are three of them.

  • Failing to include the fifth domain of the Cynefin Framework. Now Cynefin has been used on many occasions by many people, sometimes well sometimes badly. Many times to improve it through novel applications. However I get frustrated when people use it a four quadrant model, failing to understand that it has five domains, and the central domain of disorder is key. You can usually tell when someone likes the language of complexity, but does not fully understand its application to human systems when this make this mistake. Of course it’s not a major sin, it is a significant irritation, I live with it.
  • Failure to acknowledge sources however is a mortal sin. When people use or adapt any of my work, but acknowledge the source at the time, that is fine and modification is encouraging as the field develops in consequence. However when people take the model, make it into a two by two matrix, talk it through using the language and/or make no direct acknowledgement of source I find that unprofessional. Having a couple of references in a bibliography at the end of a slide set does not count, although that mitigates the sin to a very limited extent. A subset of this problem is the people who simplify complex ideas to the point where they become simplistic.
  • Marketing people with no relevant training who suddenly start to put ethnographic research on to their brochures when they have no training as ethnographers and really mean a few consultants watching what people do, conducting an unstructured interview or two then writing up a report. You get the same thing with the sudden growth of organisational anthropologists when the only training the said individuals have been through is to have read a few books on the subject.   SenseMaker™ is a distributed ethnography system and in the last twenty years I’ve read most of the material that would be on an under-graduate or masters reading list. However I still use doctorate level anthropologists when we do work in that area, as we did recently on our Children of the World project. I know enough to know what I do not know, and amateurism and/or misrepresentation has ethical issues.

I could well add to that list (and may do so), but at least its out of the system for now

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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.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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