The use of ritual

March 1, 2008

Rory, who was on the recent Copenhagen Accreditation Programme, picked up on the use of ritual to change the way we think or perceive the world. He makes the point well here. We are forgetting the importance of ritual in organisational design and change. We assume that we can define functions by rules and process which might work for robots and in the imagination of mechanically orientated management consultants, but not for human beings. We are more subtle, less obvious. When I get into a car I always adjust the mirror and run through the gears, small rituals that reorientate my identity towards that of drive. On Rugby international days I have a set of routines, including the donning of the red shirt that change my identity to that of Welsh supporter. I could go on, and I am sure all readers could list similar rituals that assist change. Rory’s military experience provides a good one.

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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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