Still playing with the Cynefin framework and thinking about how it helps us to understand the processes for decision making and action in the domains of simple, complicated, complex, chaotic and disordered domains.
Today talking with clients and friends we were discussing the “spaces inbetween,” especially with respect to cultures. In British Columbia, services are increasingly being separated between indigenous and non-indigenous service providers which isn’t a bad thing on the face of it, but the enterprise is being undertaken from a scarcity mindset. in other words, resources are being moved from one part of the sector to the other in a zero sum approach leaving people resentful and frightened of the spaces in between, which is the space that clients live in.
One of the results of this fear of space is a collapsing of leadership into a certainty based mindset. We look for the failsafe solutions and then implement, externalizing all that is unknown and unknowable. Increasingly however, there is a growing appetite among some leaders for the potential of the space of “not-knowing.” One can approach that space from the perspective of reductionist analysis, or one can embrace the possibility there. Working with emergence is not always a secure thing however, as you never know what you are going to get in this space. What is required there is principles and practices that help one to navigate and make good decisions in the complex, chaotic and disordered domains. In the simple and complicated domains, where analysis is an excellent approach, rules and tools are very useful. Previous experience, case studies and best practices are useful for simple problem solving.
Things become dangerous when we seek security in the rules and tools and try to apply them in the complex and chaotic and disordered domains. Often people will come to learning events with me and ask for a definitive list of situations in which a particular methodology will work. If I find myself saying “it depends” then I know I am dealing with that unknowable “space inbetween.” In that case I point to principles and practices. It sometimes leaves people frustrated, especially if they have come seeking rules and tools.
The goal here is to provide support for leaders who are prepared to enter the spaces of not-knowing and dwell there, sitting in the uncertainty and attentive to all the emotional difficulty that crops up. It also means taking a disciplined approach to working with safe fail experiments that allow for emergence that then gives you some indications of what is useful and what is not.
In a world besotted with analysis, this is a tough sell, and yet increasingly I meet decision makers who suspect that something is up with the way they have been taught to reason out every situations. Rules and tools are increasingly failing us as we become more aware of how difficult it is to manage in complex and chaotic domains. Principles and practices are much more useful.
As to what those practices and principles are, well, it depends. And that is an invitation to a jumping off point for diving in and learning together.