My second session at KM World was a facilitated 45 minutes on how to solve intractable problems. I prefer intractable to wicked as its more descriptive of the nature. These problems are not impossible, they are simply difficult to get a handle on. Solving these sort of issues for your organisations is a good way to get noticed and considered strategic. Something that is going to be a survival need for KM people as the recession continues to bite. The slides were brief, but do contain three pictures taken on the coldest (and the best) section of the Thames Path earlier this year. The basic form of the opening presentation was as simple as I could make it while not loosing context. So I did a very brief presentation of Cynefin, using the magnets metaphor to describe complex systems. That included the key point that we need to think about modulators not drivers.
I then went on to make two critical points about conflict:
So one of the uses of Cynefin is to break a problem over the various domains then quickly resolve the simple issues by actioning the self evident and the complicated ones by assigning experts or initiating analysis. That complete we can now move on to the more interesting and highly conflicted issues with the complex domain.
Here we need to examine all and any ideas present and then construct a series of safe-to-fail experiments. Complex systems are understood by interaction with them. I summarised the criteria for such experiments as follows:
So basics over we introduced them to one of the most popular of Cognitive Edge techniques: Ritual Dissent. I didn't have any masks with me so we did the more common turn your chair around. I gave each table a complex domain action form. They were then instructed to come up with a safe-to-fail intervention then ran one round of ritual dissent (all we had time for). As ever energy levels in the room jumped, there was a real buzz and the overall response was excellent.
Finally I pointed out that planning and strategy sessions in any field that ended up with a wall of scores of hundreds of such forms, all of which had been refined through three to five rounds of ritual dissent was a damn sight more resilient than a nice comfortable collection of platitudes that no one was prepared to disagree with.
FYI Ritual dissent and the intervention methods are taught on our two day foundations and advanced courses. I will be announcing a discount for KM World delegates on Friday for the Seattle, Boston and Washington (not up yet but it will be) so keep an eye out for that.
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