Notes on the Cynefin Framework

From Dave Snowden’s 07/10 video for Cognitive Edge, link here.

Firstly, Cynefin is pronounced kuh-nev-in, it’s Welsh (as is Dave). 

The Cynefin framework is a decision-making framework the highlights the causal differences between system types. Imagine a quadrant with:

  • Simple (bottom left)
    • Cause and effect relationships exist and are obvious, predictable and repeatable
    • Decision model is Sense–Categorize–Respond with best practices
  • Complicated (top left)
    • Cause and effect relationships exist but aren’t self-evident and therefore require expertise
    • Decision model is Sense–Analyze–Respond with a good practice by an expert
  • Complex (top right)
    • Cause and effect are clear only in hindsight with unpredictable, emergent outcomes
    • Decision model is Probe–Sense–Respond with emergent practice
    • Perform safe-fail experiments not failsafe design, allowing time for analysis and response to failure and success
  • Chaos (bottom right)
    • If entered deliberately, it’s for innovation
    • If not, the situation needs to be stabilized quickly
    • Decision model is Act–Sense–Respond with a novel practice
  • Disorder (in the middle of them all)
    • Not knowing which state you’re in, it’s the most common state
    • Situations get interpreted according to personal preference for action
    • Make decisions after defining your state and getting out of Disorder

People too often think they are in the Simple zone and become complacent, eventually falling off the cliff into Chaotic during a crisis

Lastly, I have to say, talk about potentially limiting the success of an idea by giving it a name very few non-Welsh people know, can say or can spell! 

from Wikipedia: David John Snowden (born 1 April 1954) is a Welsh academic, consultant and researcher in the field of knowledge management. He is the founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge, a research network focusing on complexity theory in sensemaking.


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