Cynefin & Complexity: A Gentle Introduction
What do we really mean when we say that a problem is "complex"? Do we simply mean to say that a given problem is extremely complicated, or are complex problems something fundamentally different? We typically assume we are operating in a deterministic, ordered system where we can identify a cause and effect relationship, when in actuality we are often operating in a non-deterministic complex system, where these relationships can not be known in advance, if at all. How can we sense which context we are operating in and how might we act under varying degrees of uncertainty.
Complexity Theory is a term used to describe a field that is focused on the study of complex systems. Complexity science is not a single theory— it encompasses multiple theoretical frameworks, seeking answers to some of the fundamental questions about continuously changing, dynamic systems.
Cynefin is a framework developed by Dave Snowden and Cognitive Edge which seeks to help us "make sense of the world, such that we can act in it". By understanding the fundamental differences between directed (ordered) systems and emergent (unordered) systems, we can modify our approach to match the context of the problem we are facing. The Cynefin framework takes a science-based approach to dealing with critical business issues, drawing from anthropology, neuroscience, and complex adaptive systems theory to improve decision making.
Complexity Theory and Cynefin have an undeserved reputation for being difficult to grasp. In this introductory talk, we will break down these approaches so that we can effectively use them to help us to better act under conditions of uncertainty.
About Jocko Selberg
Jocko Selberg is currently a Lean-Agile Coach with nearly 20 years experience in the industry. He is the co-founder of the NYC Complexity and Cynefin meetup.