Dave Snowden

The necessity of constraint

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Chris Bellavita of the Navy Post Graduate School over in Monterrey has authored a few articles using Cynefin including this useful one on homeland security.  He may be maybe better known to readers as the author of the Socrates and the Children's Party which his students converted into a great little video.  A couple of days ago he sent me the picture which heads this post and a link to his own post on the subject.

There is no point in my repeating Chris's observations, but I want to add a little on the subject of constraints.   It also links back to the all too common confusion of complexity with chaos.  A complex system, rather like bringing up children (to continue the theme) can only work with some form of constraint.  Said constraint must be capable of amendment  when it interacts with agents, its a co-evolutionary process in Cynefin.   But without the constraint patterns are just random.

Now if the drivers of Nassau County were experienced drivers from say Delhi or Naples then the constrains would be intuitively understood heuristics rather than ropes between traffic cones.  But constrains there would be.  Managing constraints, slackening the to encourage new thinking and exploration, tightening them where the focus is on problem solving and/or exploitation; these are the tools of management.

I just hope that my neighbours, celebrating bonfire night, show substantial constraint in their use of fireworks.  We live in a thatched cottage and have two cats.  If I was not on a plane to Singapore I would either be comforting the cats or standing patrol with the hose pipe in the garden!