Updated Estuarine typologies

April 8, 2023

Image from rawpixel id 843255 jpegI moved over from updating Cynefin on St David’s Day each year to updating the third framework, namely Estuarine Mapping.   That was in two parts and you can trace back the whole thread in the links provided there.  I’ve been developing this approach largely in public which is an interesting and, in the main, rewarding experience.  This post is a further update which published for the first time the constructor typology, to balance the constraint one, updates the intervention types as anticipated in the first of the St David’s Day post and also has one name change on the power-energy grid which is shown below.  That one is simple, vulnerable has changed to volatile to remove any value judgement.  I don’t think that needs more explanation so this post will focus on the first two.

There will be one more update post (at least) in the near term future as we are about to release a test version of SenseMaker® to automate the capture and initial mapping onto the grid.  All of this is stage two by the way.  Stage one was the consolidation of almost a decade’s work on constraint mapping in the EU Field Guide.  Stage two is getting to the power-energy grid and interventions and Stage three, which is due out next year will be the full semiotic representation.  There are two other areas of work which may get published this year namely the extension of the approach to coaching & well-being and also as a new foresight technique.

There is also an ongoing question as to if this would be better with a Welsh name: aberol, aber, aberfa, moryd and I think there are others – advice from a native speaker appreciated

So let’s move on to the two main focus areas along with some updates and thoughts on facilitation.

Constructor typology

The two main elements of constructor theory are constructors and counterfactuals well illustrated by the quote in my second St David’s Day post.   We added the notion of constraints and to be honest there is a strong argument that either term can cover the other.  My motivation for the separation was the problem with ordinary language usage of constraint, which inevitably ends up linked back to the Theory of Constraints.  The typology we created helped break that but not completely.  Constructors works differently in ordinary language and its use is also more authentic to the core of one of the source theories that gave rise to Estuarine.

Constraint mapping, as stage one, has been developing over several years and the two resilient and robust triad sets along with the enabling-governing dyad has worked consistently for some time.  The latter comes from Alicia’s work and I would strongly suggest pre-ordering her new book now by the way. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to create a symmetrical structure for a constructor typology but it really hasn’t worked.  Any structure is an emergent property so for the moment we will work with a list that currently stands as set out below;  a baker’s dozen.  There are several links  to the 2021 Christmas series, my thanks to Anna for reminding me of that and she also writes blog posts here for the Cynefin Co

  1. Catalyst Something which triggers and accelerates a change without itself undergoing significant change
  2. Process A defined pathway which can be measured and for which compliance can be enforced
  3. Ritual “The process whereby some behaviour became progressively modified and specialised for its communicative function” More details can be found here
  4. Habit
    In this context more  “Liberating force” than a “rut we get stuck in” explored in three posts starting here
  5. Custom & practice The way we’ve always done things, more fully elaborated  here
  6. Machine Probably the most obvious example and I am using it here in the sense of something which has been designed for a purpose
  7. Artefact All machines are artefacts, but I am using it here in the sense of material engagement theory with the idea that there is some agency involved (I need Anna to write on this)
  8. Rules Although they might be seen as a restraint, rules are a form of formalised habit, defined as a liberating force per the above
  9. Collage or mosaic The elements of a collage have meaning in their own right but when they are put together there is a whole new level of meaning
  10. Mosaic Here the components have no particular meaning, but when they are assembled by a skilled artisan they create a work of art
  11. Roles Humans are very good at creating roles, ritualising entry into roles and creating expectations on the role holder
  12. Deep knowledge Different from roles, in that the expertise is universally acknowledged, it’s more personal based on people’s experience rather than a formal role
  13. A profession Law, Medicine, Accountancy and the Military among others have multi-generational established processes that generate roles, ethics and practices

There is also a working dyad, namely the difference between a constructor which has been constructed and one which has emerged.  Another way to look at this is to think of a Constructor which you either encounter or enter and as a result of which some transformation takes place

Constraint typology refresher

As a reminder, we have the dyad between enabling and governing then six types, which can be grouped into robust (the first three) and resilient (the second three)

  1. Rigid
  2. Elastic or flexible
  3. Tether
  4. Permeable
  5. Phase shift
  6. Dark

Using the constraint and constructor typologies

There are a lot of types, so in the facilitation kit, the intent is to create a series of meta-types with which you can start, and then add in the others as people progress in the discussion.  With software capture, we can allow for something more elaborate.   They can also be used in various formations, such as triads grids or whatever.    At the moment my thoughts are for the following – comments welcome

  1. Resilient
  2. Robust
  3. Dark scaffolding
  4. Designed
  5. Emerged
  6. Things
  7. People

We also have as a part of the process the ability for people to discuss and agree on their own metaphors to make the process easier

Intervention typology

This is much simpler and in the kits, we are moving to a mixture of brainstorming disposable hexi and software capture (SenseMaker® Genba licensed for this specific use).  I elaborated on this in part for the St David’s Day post but this is the current version:

  1. Compass Rose
    A shift in energy cost or time (either positive or negative) in other words a micro-intervention to change the potentiality of the system to change, not initiating the change itself
  2. Monitor
    Used for boundary conditions as well as forward scouts and also volatility clusters when a compass rose is not used
  3. Request
    As for permission to change, used in Liminal in the main
  4. Stabilise
    It’s in the right place, let’s keep it there
  5. Trigger
    We are now prepared to put in the energy over the time scale to initiate transformation
  6. Conditional
    Something else needs to happen first, then the gradients will change (think Flexuous Curves)
  7. Research
    This needs to be investigated further there is a lack or clarity, may also need stabilse action if there is treat involved

In active facilitation, those actions may also have a specific method Hexi attached to define how the change is going to be made.

Again comments are welcome

Some other linked posts

These are also related

  1. My summary of the three frameworks in a keynote at KM World last November
  2. Two posts on coherence, granularity and abstraction
  3. A three-part, slightly polemic series on incoherence

Updated grid

Screenshot 2023 04 08 at 11 08 37

The banner picture is cropped from an original public domain image from Digital Commonwealth: A view of the castle of Belem and the city of Lisbon as it appears from thence ; A map of the mouth of the famous river Tagus or the harbour of the city of Lisbon : to ye most noble & right honourable Iames O Hara Baron of Tyrawley envoy &c ; to ye honourable Charles Compton, Esqr. Consul General ; and to ye most worthy ye Brittish merchants of the city of Lisbon .  The Tagus Estuary which meets the sea at Lisbon is the largest estuary in Western Europe.  Aside from its importance in the creation of the Portuguese Empire the Lisbon Earthquake is one of the trigger mechanisms for a major phase shift in Western thought.

The opening picture is an illustration of 11 representations of inventions such as sewing machine, barometer, and compass (1869–1882) by Monogrammist W.H.V. Original from Rijks museum. Original from The Rijksmuseum.

The latter was digitally enhanced by rawpixel which is also the source of both

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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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