So its time to conclude this series on the nature and management of ritual and habits. I’ll confess at times I thought I might not. I took on the subject as a means of exploring something which I knew was important but which I could only see through a glass, darkly (1 Cor 13:12 KJV). I took the books I knew would help to the cottage I had rented, spilt wine over some of them and generally returned to them most evenings, frequently wet and tired. So I didn’t do as much reading as planned, but enough to get this series out and identify future areas of study and practice. Critically I think I got enough to extend our existing mapping approach to take a more comprehensive approach to understanding, creating and if need be changing rituals and habits in use. Their role in reducing the energy cost of action I think I’ve established and in a sense they are part of the overall scaffolding of the organisation.
Now in parallel to this I was thinking (and acting) in three areas key to the Cynefin Company. The first is the pending release of a new release of our software, namely SenseMaker® Genba which allows app based pervasive capture, reporting and engagement of the whole workforce. This was built in part to make the human sensor network aspect of the EU Field Guide more real in practice, but it is also a key tool in our work on knowledge, decision making, mapping, measurement and a whole set of other areas. In the context of this series it allows not only better identification of what is in place but can also allow the engagement of multiple actors in evaluation and identification of change mechanisms. The second is the development of the hexi kits to create a tangible realisation of the complexity idea of scaling: decomposition to the lowest level of granularity and then recombination. Expect a lot on that in February and March. The third is a new paper with the grand title The Substrate-Independence Theory: Advancing Constructor
Theory to Scaffold Substrate Attributes for the Recursive
Interaction between Knowledge and Information. Its co-authored with John Turner (University of North Texas and our links with that institution are developing well) and Nigel Thurlow of the Flow Consortium with whom we are actively engaged. At its heart that article builds on a body of work I have been developing for over a decade and from a method perspective involves three simple things:
All three are informed by constraint mapping and our extensive body of work on narrative, including military work on Commander’s intent. I’ve referenced all of these from time to time in this series and I will write a lot more in February and March. So I am here making a note to set a wider context,
The series started with the ASHEN perspective question/typology which was one of the very early methods in the body of knowledge that Cynefin has become. Its fairly easy to focus on the artefacts and skills but I’ve never been fully happy with the heuristics and experience. Natural talent is really a catchall for anything not covered by the foregoing. So one think this series has done has mutate the H in ASHEN from heuristics to habits and then to encompass rituals in with habits. Experience is just what it says it is, and its important but (as I have argued in this series) habits and associated rituals reduce the energy cost of knowledge and practice acquisition and use. They embody knowledge in such a way that the learning does not have to be repeated time and time again. That also means that they can also be a conservative force; some inhibition of change generally has utility in any human system but too much and we ossify.
So I spent the first three posts looking at various ways in which habits arise and are used and ended up my fourth post with a three by three matrix as a starting point for a typology of habits. I’ve inserted it here again to save jumping back and it attempts to identify not only a way of asking questions to identify what habits exist, but also seeks to describe them in such a way as to determine what actions are needed ranging from detoxification to various forms of deliberative institutionalisation. I was reasonably happy with that, it’s good enough to be used in a discussion, post the mapping process itself which I described in the tenth post. Although that post was a summary of a well established mapping process, one now made easier through the Genba version of the software I also introduced the ideas of triangulation and symbols which form part of the whole where do we go next section at the end of this post.
Habits complete I moved on the question or ritual and its role in changing identity and triggering cognitive activation patterns as well as a means of embodiment for habits considered necessary within the organisation. I tackled some of the issues with rote learning and practice that are (to my mind at least) somewhat neglected of recent years with the focus on a mistaken assumption that humans work like computer processors. The myth that once you have written something down and trained people you have done enough. By the ninth post of I had identified nine questions to ask of any ritual, that probably needs to be linked into the typology of habits grid as I further develop the methods here and a lot of those questions are key to the wider issue of mapping constraints and counterfactuals. To repeat an earlier point, habits and rituals reduce the energy cost of repetition but they can easily increase the cost of change. So on reflection I think the three by three works as well for rituals, but the process of questioning for identification and evaluation is important I think in practice that we might use a distributed decision support system in evaluating the value and evolutionary pathway for both habits and rituals. That we avoid some of the dangers of inattentional blindness and I have a general principle around anything that that gets bundled together as custom and practice that you abandon such things only if the case is clear. Much may have arisen over the years the purpose of which we don’t understanding until the context shifts and then we may regret the loss, The nature of rituals and habits is that in the main their are unarticulated and we need to be aware of that – part of the purpose of mapping is to prevent accidental abandonment.
In fact if you want a general metaphor for this then think about calling in the archeologists if you find the off unexpected artefact or bone while excavating for a new road. Disturbing the system (any change initiative) may bring things to the surface whose purpose and use is obvious to deep experts but may not be to those wielding the JCBs of ‘change’.
In the course of exploring ritual I took a diversion into the field of scaffolding. Now I need to explore Caporael’s Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition in far more depth. But in the seventh post of this series I picked up on her definition of scaffolding as something that fluid that supports actions and ideas either through group structures, cultural or endogenous resources. That included her identification of Dyad groups (parents high intimacy), Task groups (3-5), Deme (or band) of around 30 and a Macrodeme of 300 used for seasonal gathering, gene sharing and language stabilisation. I suggested in respect of the latter that shared stories are not only use the language, but start to define it as they act as triggers both abstract and concrete to acceptable or normed actions. In that post I suggested that our entangled trio method is a means to explore and create by doing; acting in the world to explore its possibilities using a method that is solidly grounded in theory. This type of approach is at the heart of naturalising sense-making as a discipline. In a world of uncertainty we can’t determine what will work, but we can determine what will not (counterfactuals) and we can experiment based on sound and validated theory which radically increases the changes of success. This is an abductive process, the inductive or case based approach also has validity but only in ordered and stable domains. It was a diversion, but I needed to do it to link with in with the Substrate paper above referenced which uses the concept of scaffolding extensively.
So having completed the basics I looked at the role of memory and abstract forms of remembering in post eight and decided that no treatment of ritual could be complete without an examination of the role of the sacred, including issues of gifiting and that resulted in the nine questions I have already referenced. After completing mapping in post ten I used practice theory as the context for some philosophical musings. That along with post seven are probably the two main theory posts, and are exploratory rather than final in nature so I will not attempt to summarise them, simply signpost them here. I’m still far from sure that practice theory has utility by the way, which is not to say I don’t value much of its content but I think the original sources may be more useful.
Well the basic explorations are complete, I can now extend and adapt the basic knowledge and decision mapping process which has stood the test of time. It is also expanded with this wider consideration of what are often called intangibles, but are amounts the most material and embodied aspects of knowledge. The big piece of work now is to create the visualisation(s) for the estuarine framework to represent counterfacturals, constructions, scaffolding etc. and within that to examine the nature of triangulation in terms of survey and what I want to call contingent detail. When you have your trig points built and stable you can decided how much more detail is needed, or if you only need pathways between them. That will take a few months and the work is already underway. Increasingly I am now able to use SenseMaker® to automate the process without the loss of human intimacy and diversity so that may make it faster – at least in getting to beta!
Finally, to extend the statement I made at the end of post seven:
All of this can be managed, if its mapped …
Today was the last day of my break and I had some hope of climbing Moel Siabod but the hail storm that hit the car as I drew into Capel Curig but and end to that plan. So I fell back to walking up to Aber Falls with a plan to do a full circular, As it happened the storm came in again as I reached the decision point so I ended up going back the way I had come and took the opportunity to visit the Aber Falls Distillery, source of the best Rhubarb and Ginger Gin I know and is now producing its own whisky,
The Falls were a large part of my childhood as they could be reached in under and hour and a visit was a reliable bad weather day. It was also one of the places where we would cart in a frying pan, build a fire and fry them. The banner picture is of the falls from today, the top picture shows me, my cousin Peter, my sister Mary and my Mother on one of those trips over five decades ago.
Abergwyngregyn was the seat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last true Prince of Wales and the remnants of royal llys. It is surrounded by reminders of the bronze age and the Roman Road from Deva (now Chester) to Segontium (now Caernarfon) passes nearby. It is close to the point on the Menai Straits where a bold traveller on a horse could cross at low tide. So it is a place of memories, both family and tribe and a point of pilgrimage,
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