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Cynefin® & the OODA loop: Dave Snowden & Brian “Ponch” Rivera

A Cognitive Edge Masterclass:

Cynefin® and the OODA loop: Explorations with Dave Snowden and Brian “Ponch” Rivera

Decision-making and context awareness at speed! Integrating the benefits of OODA with Cynefin® for dealing with a complex world 

Your systems change, but does your management approach?

Forged in battle and conflict, and created to work under pressure, the OODA loop and the Cynefin® framework are redefining 21st century management. In peaceful times they have found applications in fields from safety, to health, to organizational transformations. As volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity increase, managers who hold on to failing best practices expose their organizations to accelerated extinction as new Apex Predators emerge.

If you want to provide your teams or organization the capacity to survive and thrive on their own terms, this 2-day intense Exploration is for you. Facilitated by the creator of the Cynefin® framework, Dave Snowden, and a former F-14 instructor and decorated naval officer, Brian “Ponch” Rivera, this exploratory will take a sophisticated approach to integration that goes beyond naive efforts to combine unrelated models. Brought together in this way, these two non-linear approaches, have the potential to improve results and create greater resilience under conditions of uncertainty.


What I will learn

In this masterclass you will learn how to:

  • Create a low-energy approach to scaling agility, safety, and resilience by combining the OODA loop and Cynefin® framework.
  • Improve decision-making with Cynefin®, Liminal Cynefin®, and Commander’s Intent
  • Use the feedback links in the OODA loop as a forcing function to separate decisions from outcomes when operating in the Complex domain
  • Avoid aiming for the minimum, premature convergence, and the dangers of incestuous amplification with pre-Scrum and design thinking techniques.
  • Shift from linear thinking to non-linear thinking using the OODA loop and the Cynefin® framework
  • Connect and Apply. Connect existing frameworks and methods (i.e Scrum, Lean Startup, Agility Loop, etc.) to the OODA loop and know when to apply them and others (Lean, Six Sigma, Waterfall) based on context (Cynefin domains).
  • Take a Shallow Dive into Chaos to improve internal and external feedback loops with disintermediation, SenseMaker®, and complex facilitation techniques.


The schedule

As well as being an exciting exploration of the synergies between two powerful approaches, this masterclass will also experiment with format and scheduling to create a unique exposure to military history, strategy, and tactics now and in the past. This means that the full schedule will extend far beyond the 1 and 1/2 days listed on the event website.

  • 11th of November: [Optional] Walking the Civil War battle fields with Dave Snowden and Brian Rivera and seeing mission Command from a historical perspective and in action.
  • 12th of November: first training day
  • 13th of November, morning session: second training day
  • 13th of November, afternoon session: Free symposium, open to the public, that will produce the final synthesis.

The symposium on the 13th of November will take place at the Marine Corps University. Major Ian T. Brown, author of “A New Conception of War”, an examination of the life and military career of John Boyd, will be joining Dave Snowden and Brian Rivera for this part of the event.


A special rate for Masterclass attendees is available at the Courtyard Stafford Quantico for the course dates.

You can book by following this link.


Who should attend

This exploration is for Board Members, CXOs, managers, academics, strategists, medical professionals, government officials, military members, safety professionals, consultants, and studied members of John Boyd, Lean, Scrum, Agile, Systems Thinking, and anthro-complexity who desire to gain a competitive advantage in their industry. To ensure a high-quality learning environment, class size will be limited and attendees should have prior knowledge or experience of the Cynefin® framework and/or the OODA loop.

Attendees from the following fields and interests are highly encouraged to attend:

  • Homeland Security
  • Patient Safety
  • Digital Transformations
  • Department of Defense
  • State Department
  • Oil and Gas
  • Investment
  • Safety (HSE)
  • Operational Excellence

Register TODAY as seats are limited

Early “Front of the Class” registrations are limited to the first 8 registrations. Book your space early to ensure you are at the front of the class!

Registration is open until one day prior to course start IF seats remain available. Group registrations are common which can sell lead to fast sell-outs. Book early to confirm your seat.

Masterclasses are limited to 20 seats* to ensure a high quality learning experience and to provide participants greater interaction time with instructors.

* – final class sizes are dependent on venue configuration. Masterclass limit can vary between 18-24.

About the facilitators

Dave Snowden divides his time between two roles: founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge and the founder and head of the Cynefin Centre. His work is international in nature and covers government and industry looking at complex issues relating to strategy, organisational decision making and decision making. He has pioneered a science-based approach to organisations drawing on anthropology, neuroscience and complex adaptive systems theory. His paper with Boone on Leadership was the cover article for the Harvard Business Review in November 2007 and also won the Academy of Management award for the best practitioner paper in the same year. He has previously won a special award from the Academy for originality in his work on knowledge management. During his tenure at IBM, he was selected as one of the six on demand thinkers for w worldwide advertising campaign His company Cognitive Edge exists to integrate academic thinking with practice in organisations throughout the world and operates on a network model working with Academics, Government, Commercial Organisations, NGOs and Independent Consultants. He is also the main designer of the SenseMaker® software suite, originally developed in the field of counter-terrorism and now being actively deployed in both Government and Industry to handle issues of impact measurement, customer/ employee insight, narrative-based knowledge management, strategic foresight and risk management.

Brian “Ponch” Rivera is the founder of AGLX Consulting, member of the Cynefin network and co-founder of Cynefin in Defense. He is the co-creator of the Toyota Flow System–a system of patterns, practices and techniques to enable organizations and institutions to achieve desired outcomes in a complex world. A former F-14 instructor and foreign area officer, Brian applies his military experience in High-Reliability Organizations (HROs), human factors, Red Teaming, and Joint Operations to reinforce the applicability of the OODA loop, Cynefin framework, and complexity theory in both business and Defense.

Recently, Brian has been splitting his time between working in key leadership roles in the U.S. Navy and leading his consultancy. As a senior naval reserve officer, Brian volunteered for a role that explored the application of industry “best practices” to solve the uptick in U.S. Navy mishaps. In this role, Brian met with academic experts in the field of industrial and organizational psychology, human factors, organizational and occupational safety, and complexity leadership thinking. In uniform, he has been an advisor to the U.S. Navy’s agility program, a supporting member of the Navy Reserve Innovation Team, and member of the Navy Safety Center. He has previous military experience in Integrated Air and Missile Defense, Air and Space Operations, Air Logistics, and as an instructor in the F-14. He has qualifications as a Joint Enabling Capabilities Command member, completed in-residence Joint Professional Military Education I & II, served in NATO and as a foreign area officer responsible for counter terrorism and counter piracy activities in East Africa.

As a consultant, Brian has primarily worked in the fields of digital transformation and safety. He has worked directly with Toyota’s Chief of Agile, Nigel Thurlow, Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, and with the co-creator of Lean-Kanban University on one of the largest digital transformations in the United States. Brian is a regular Agile conference speaker where he focuses his efforts making connections between the OODA loop, Cynefin, and human factors. Brian holds an MBA, MA, and multiple certifications including a PMP, PMI-ACP, and several Scrum Alliance certifications

Cognitive Edge reserves the right to cancel or re-schedule the offered session.  In the event of cancellation or rescheduling, a full refund of course fees will be processed within 10 business days of cancellation or rescheduling notice.  Cancellations by registrants are only permitted with a minimum of 3 weeks notice ahead of course delivery date with refunds provided less a 10% processing fee. Substitutions are permitted at any time as well as rescheduling attendance to an alternate session within a 12 month period.

Explanation of ticket discount options below. PLEASE NOTE the discount changes for 2019 bolded in (2).

  1. If you are part of a group of FOUR (4) or more people, then please email training@cognitive-edge.com for a group discount, or use the group ticket option.
  2. Premium Members get 5% discount on Cynefin Retreats, Explorations/Masterclasses and 15% for Online courses and CE managed Foundations courses (Discounts apply only to Standard priced tickets). Sign up for the Network here: Cognitive Edge network registration for a Basic membership. When you’ve done that you’ll be directed to the Network Dashboard page, click on the upgrade option to pay to become a Premium member and then use the provided discount code.
  3. Discounts cannot be used cumulatively with Network Membership discounts.


November 12, 2019 – November 13, 2019


8:00 am – 1:30 pm


From: USD 1495


Courtyard Stafford Quantico, 375 Corporate Drive
Stafford, VA , 22554
United States