Time out….but not really!!!!

May 30, 2010

Haven’t blogged for a couple of days because I took time out to relax on the glorious Hawkesbury River, which is in the Kuring-gai National Park near Sydney, and runs 100km inland and to the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most beautiful and pristine waterways in Australia and I am fortunate to own the glorious boat you see in the picture. That boat (and where it is moored) has a history as far as Cognitive Edge goes because it was the place that Annabelle Mark (the previous guest blogger) and I met for the second time.

Actually, we were supposed to meet in Sydney before we both went to Melbourne for the Australian New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Conference(our equivalent of the British Academy of Management (BAM) but smaller), but that meeting never happened. As it turned our first meeting at Cockle Bay in Sydney (another lovely spot at Darling Harbour) was a non-event. Annabelle was sick and forgot all about it and actually stood me up! I had driven into Sydney (about 28 kms) in the rain and was not a “happy chappy” when I realized what had happened but then I doubt that she was thrilled either being so far from home and really ill. We got over that hurdle pretty quickly and in early January, 2010 Annabelle joined us on our boat for a glorious day of wining, dining and musing over all the projects we could do with Sensemaker. I think this is where my interest was really triggered in Sensemaker (still not Cynefin). We drank some wonderful champagnes and the day finished with a spectacular summer storm that I still remember vividly! The boat is pictured in the exact spot that we moored for lunch that day. I think this is where Annabelle and I had a “meeting of the minds” so to speak though I suspect there were other things making this happen! Incidentally, the place is called Refuge Bay because it is where Captain Cook took refuge (hence the name) from a storm and also found fresh water.

One of the things that struck me from a recent meeting I had about a potential project is that it is worth keeping a diary of how things emerge – it’s an idea that originates from presentations given by Hugh MacLeod when he visited us last month. Hugh is the new CEO of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute and an Adjunct Professor at Griffith University. He has disciplined himself to write (don’t think he blogs!) on a regular basis (mostly once a week) recording his experiences and interpretations of managing change that has been a large part of his work over the last ten years. He is a great story-teller and through his reflections he has been able to make sense of some very complex processes that he said always started from a key premise of his about change – you have to be able to start a new conversation with those you want to engage in transformational and enduring change! One way he has done this is not to set terms of reference for projects but to pose questions and challenge people to dig deep to break old habits and mindsets. I told him that at heart he is a “Cynefin-thinker” and that is what I think makes the whole exposure to Cynefin and Sensemaker so confronting – it is realizing how hard it is to starting new conversations in organizations and collectivities and that is because the realm of disorder is where most conservations are contested and so many mistakes or flawed decision making occur. Why? Because of ritualistic domain behaviour that basically means we dwell in our comfort zones most of the time and in very defensive and intolerant ways. Doing this blog is definitely outside my comfort zone!

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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.

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


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