Dave Snowden

Fast falls the even tide

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When we put CalmAlpha together back in January I was somewhat shamed by Joseph Pelrine talking about his use of ABIDE, something that I developed as a pairing for ASHEN the best part of a decade ago, but then left it to go into decline.  Others, Viv Read for example, argued that it should be brought back into the mainstream but it wasn't until a month or so that I started to realise why I was blocked on it, and how to use it.

But I get ahead of myself, I should explain what ABIDE is.   It is a mnemonic for the things that can be managed in a complex system.  ASHEN did something similar for knowledge management.   I got increasingly irritated with consultants asking people what they knew when this did knowledge audits.  To my mind that was a meaningless question in a meaningless context.   So I developed one of the first narrative enquiry methods focused on identifying decisions made in an organisation, clustering those decisions and then asking people When you make these types of decisions: What Artifacts did you use?  What Skills are needed?  What Hheuristics are in play?  What Experience is necessary?  What (if any) Natural Talent is needed.   The results where then clustered in to knowledge objects, matched to business needs and used to create a portfolio of knowledge management projects.

The method has been much used, and in some cases modified since.  So when the shift started from knowledge management to complexity, and with that strategy assignments I started to play around with a possible equivalent mnemonic.   I finally worked it through with my father when he was alive, sitting in the main room of their Moelfre home looking over the sea to the mountains.  He was a avid crossword completer so I through out the ideas, we played with words and came up with ABIDE.  It stands for:

  • Attractors
  • Boundaries
  • Identity
  • Diversity
  • Environment

That had a good ring to it, including an favourite hymn, sung at football matches as well in Church namely Abide with me.  The title of this post comes from the first line of that hymn.  Now it partly worked, but I was also trying to find one for cultural mapping and couldn't my mind off the need to have something other than decisions as the disclosure point, and after a year I moved on.

Preparing for the advanced course yesterday and while teaching other subjects today I moved the idea around in my mind, talked with Michael Cheveldave and generally have a process worked out,  Its not complete, but it will be by the time I finish tomorrow, at which point I will post the results.