to distinguish the ordinary

October 26, 2008

I have just loaded the podcast of my speech in the Melbourne Arts Centre last week. There are no slides, I only used two in the hour and they were just bookmarks. The picture is from a wonderful room where we held a smaller workshop in the morning. It well illustrates the power if light and patterns to distinguish the ordinary and the mundane (look closely and you wil see what I mean and there are more on the flickr stream). The basic theme of the presentation was innovation, but in the context of the current economic climate I did not hold back (even by my standards) from a criticism of the ethical failure of the build up to the current situation, the need for government to lead and not follow industry and the fundamental duty to find more human ways of managing out future.

The sequence of the presentation is as follows:

  • An argument that we should not confuse creativity with innovation, the former being a symptom of the latter not a cause
  • The necessary, but not sufficient conditions for innovation being starvation, pressure and perspective shift. I subject I have covered in the past.
  • The advocacy of three key elements of understanding needed for sensemaking: distributed cognition, using fine granularity information objects (everything is fragmented) and finally disintermediation (putting the decision maker directly in touch with raw data).

I spent the bulk of the presentation on these three key elements, and my blog post later today will elaborate on them as part of a new series of blogs for which the working title is Think anew, Act anew. So more of that later. I then used the 7Cs of sense-making (it grew from 5Cs overnight with the addition of culture and complexity and its still a work in progress). Complexity covered the Childrens’ Party Story and the basics of safe-fail intervention and managing for emergence. Culture allowed me to expand on aspects of context of systems and the need to allow culture to co-evolve with management needs and technology rather than be engineered to fit top down idealistic prescriptions.

Now I managed to complete all seven but I’m afraid the battery on my digital tape recorder ran out eight minutes before I finished. So it cuts out when I am part way through the third of these namely connectivity. That means you get the full pitch on complexity and constraints but miss out on most of connectivity and all of coherence, context, coalescence and culture. I should warn listeners of tender disposition that this is a presentation in which I did not take prisoners, or pull punches.

A PS, some kind comments after the Melbourne presentation

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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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