Updated view on complex system intention

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —January 3, 2005
Filed in Communication

Thanks for your comment Matt. I agree, the diagram does suggest that ‘known’ is a subset of ‘knowable’ etc., and this wasn’t my intent. Here is a new version of the diagram.
The space between the boundaries indicates the breadth of possibilities. The wider the space, the greater the possibilities. In the complex domain it is impossible to explore the entire possibility space. There are just too many interrelated, potential outcomes. I have kept the angle of the complex boundary acute to depict the point that while the possibilities are large their is still a desired purpose in an organisational system.
Of course the question now is what do you do with this conception of the Cynefin framework. I think the most important outcome is how one designs projects/interventions depending on the nature of the problem one is facing. If the issue is ‘known’ then search for a best practice and apply it. If the problem is ‘knowable’ then investigate, analyse, search for good practices, and apply them.
The complex domain requires quite a different approach. As I have mentioned in a previous post, it is important to design small interventions and then monitor the results, which are largely unpredictable. It is like navigating a sailing boat across a rough sea. You set a course and then take stock of your current location, which is never quite where you expect it to be, before setting your next course. If your course is heading in the same direction as you roughly intend, then it is a succesful intervention. If, however, the intervention results in a course which heads in the wrong direction then you must quickly intervene to correct the error. Here is another diagram to illustrate this idea.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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