Cynefin: A framework for working in complexity

CYNEFIN imagesAllen Frimpong and I did a training last night for about 14 people working in social change, disability movement, harm reduction, art and faith communities.

The group studied the Cynefin Framework and then discussed what it takes to stay in inquiry rather than depending on what we already know.

The key harvest  was the importance of personal resolve and healthy relationships as a foundation for staying with ‘not knowing’ until emergence can happen.

Their reflections surfaced the importance of personal practice (re-framing personal discomfort with not knowing, letting go of ego, dedication and persistence, seeing value in your own position) and group practice (building trust and safety, honest communication and commitment to learning in our teams).

Two themes surfaced across the group: (1)  noticing that it takes conscious effort to balance inquiry and acting/solving and (2) the desire to be able to work in environments that invite ‘failing forward’, which Cynefin frames as ‘safe-fail experiments’ because, when given proper controls and attention, failed experiments/prototypes may provide a better route forward than successes.

There was also an aha for when power dynamics show up as barriers in our teams and organizations. One strategy ~ repeating and returning to a wicked question ~ was offered as a practice that one with less power can use to expand the possibility of inquiry even when the team or higher ups are moving on or solving.

Here are a couple of blogs from the originator David Snowden that explore these themes:

About KellyMcG

working with the flow and questioning everything.
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