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Success is a self-correcting strategy

August 21, 2009

This has been an exciting week for us. We’re in the final stages of an exciting project where we’re using our version of ASHEN (HARNESS) to assist with the transfer of experiential knowledge or “gut feel” at a banking client. We’re preparing for a narrative change management project at another finanancial services client where we’ll be using archetypes and stories to understand and shift values after a recent re-branding exercise.

Dave is also visiting South Africa at the moment, so we get to engage in many interesting discussions. At a recent talk, people seemed very interested in his theory that we’re currently going through a major shift in paradigm from systems thinking to sense-making or complexity. I always find it useful to challenge my existing patterns and make sure I’m not lagging. As Gary Hamel said recently: “When your internal change lags behind external changes, your organization becomes irrelevant.” – the title is also one of his nuggets of wisdom.

We’re seeing several changes in South Africa that we need to adapt to now. For one, people seem more open to this “new” thinking than they were even just two years ago. Concepts like complexity, distributed cognition and narrative seem to resonate more with people nowadays. We’re seeing interest in radically new ways of addressing Health and Safety, Ethics and Culture change. Knowledge Managers also seem more open to the message that KM as we’ve known it is very close to dead and that a new definition and approach is required.

So, in many ways, times have changed. Unfortunately not all for the better, as another change is a distinct reluctance to make decisions and spend money. We’ve never submitted as many proposals as we’ve done in the last 6 months, but the approval ratio has been depressing. It’s forced us to think creatively about our offerings, and it’s also lead to some interesting alliances and partnerships with other small businesses. All in all, I think we live in really interesting times and success truly is a self-correcting strategy!

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About the Cynefin Company

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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