A little over two months ago I wrote a post summarising the previous year’s blog posts. This proved useful to several readers but also to me and so I resolved to timetable a similar task every couple of months. I’m back to my normal pace of writing 5/6 times a week hence not waiting a full calendar year this time. Aside from the St David’s Day update on Cynefin was able to link to my Christmas blog post series on sacred places and pick up some themes namely Leadership, Method development, Flexuous Curves, Narrative, and the wider field of Aesthetics, semiotics, and ethics. I also identified what I considered the most important post in the period which had set up the basis for my work on organisational change, something I picked up in yesterday’s post.
I’ve summarised the big themes below, but as is the norm I was also reacting from time to time to events and concerns in my immediate virtual interactions with the world. Several people had asked how you sell novel concepts so I gave some general advice which included resurrecting an old matrix from by DataSciences days. That I hope to work up into a training programme at some stage in the future. Reflections on walking, which was still possible back then stimulated me to some musings on the need for physical in mental health. I think I spoke for a lot of people with my post on being bone weary before Christmas. I didn’t push that one on social media but a lot of people found it and got in touch.
And I got irritated enough with two-column evil to the left, salvation to the right tables to suggest their use as an example of the straw man fallacy and that in turn stimulated me to develop a new method, provisionally entitled Trialectics which is linked below. Someone also tried to be clever by asking for a translation of a phrase used I one blog (quoted in social media out of context and that resulted in a polemical blog with a Welsh theme on the need for people to be more open to being challenged and educated. That reminded me of my Grandmother and I spent a few hours hunting down a good picture of her for a memorial post on the date of the birthday. Also, a fairly personal post talked about mystery and my own Catholicism although there is a wider context to that with the forthcoming Centre programme on the Numinous.
A core aspect of naturalising sense-making as a field is the idea of resilience. And I pulled together a lot of past material in two posts around different understandings of what it means to be comfortable. Those had a hiking metaphor at their heart and the first was personal and light-hearted but with serious intent by way of a poke at some of my walking companions. The second built on the metaphor of a sea wall and a salt marsh to make the difference between robustness and resilience. I also explained how I see the idea of anti-fragile given the popularity of that idea.
I would also make a general observation that discussion about blog posts now seems to take place in LinkedIn or other social media where I tend to broadcast them. This is more interactive, but it also means that the comments and discussion are lost.
This annual tradition has ranged from trivial to serious and this year I had hoped to spend each day of the period walking in the Lake District or the Howgills. That started off well, allowing me to use some spectacular pictures as the banner of each day’s post. But just before the new year the imposition of the third lockdown sent me home to a slightly black period if I am honest but I don’t think that impacted the material I decided to layout the whole field of Naturalising Sense-Making in four blocks of three posts looking at knowledge management, narrative insights, anthro-complexity and sense-making itself. The narrative posts coincided with the best walking conditions. If you read or read nothing else then go through these posts and as were written with a book series in mind. In fact, as soon as I have checked this post I will be writing up the first draft of a proposal from Mary Boone and myself to a publisher. I realised in the process of writing the coming Field Guide to Complexity that blogging is my medium and with the right co-author I can simply blog and let them put my content together with their own in the different medium of a book. Alessandro did that brilliantly for the Field Guide and it’s how I worked with Mary on the HBR article. Mary and I talked and producing a series of books this way is probably better than one major opus.
In addition to the normal twelve posts, I added a thirteenth which was an attack on some of the linguistic games you see in people who seem opposed to the idea of thinking differently. That isn’t essential reading but it is important, and I think fun. The series also involved some reflections on the various walks that I took each day. When I was forced home I went back two years to be able to continue an approach that was popular with several readers.
Were a strong theme in the period with two posts picking up the metaphor of Mycorrhiza. The first set the context by referencing my early work on informal networks. The second introduced one of the most important method developments I have started in recent years namely the idea of entangled trios. Three posts then used a mixed metaphor of slime molds and railway lines to explore ways of creating a line of escape or ligne de fuite to reference Deleuze’s work on assemblages which is important to the overall field of naturalising sense-making and a focus of SenseMaker®. After the introduction I went on to the value of indirect approaches, dealing with the present not an idealised future, and finished with the three options of changing perspective, changing the lens or changing actor interaction. Most recently I picked up on the idea of rewilding in the first of what may be several posts.
My final post in this period was a major one on organisational design by way of building to a more generic ecological approach to organisations of which rewinding and mycorrhiza are all a part. There will be a lot more on this over the next couple of months.
I continued work on aspects of Cynefin, some of which I may update and repeat in a month’s time as St David’s Day comes round again. I’ll make the point now that of the four nations that make up the British Isles, only Wales has a patron saint who was a native and as an act of generosity, we provided the Irish with theirs. The development of the aporetic/confused domain previously singled continued with my talking about the triple point and reverse liminality in which I also set out the various layers of explanation that are possible with the framework. That continued with the need to align perception, knowledge, and reality and a full mapping onto Cynefin of various combinations of known, knowable, unimagined, and the like.
One of the major developments of Cynefin in the last year was the idea of aporia, a key part of the coming masterclass I am running with Zhen. As a part of getting ready for that, I wrote three mosts covering linguistic, aesthetic and physical ways of creating an aporetic state or opportunity. Pictures from my study formed the banners of those posts.
The theme of leadership is never far from my writing and that continued with a summary of a method originally developed with the IBM leadership team for initiating a higher degree of awareness in leaders as to how they are perceived. That resulted in a two-part post seeking to set Leadership in context, arguing that it is less about individual qualities and more about the overall situation In the second post I ran through seven different methods to do this. Trying to shift away from the individual as a focus to their social and environmental context has been important. I’ve been attempting a both/and accommodation with various psychotherapeutic approaches over the period and I offered ASHEN as one way to do that. To be clear I think a body of valid approaches to personal coaching and some organisational change efforts have emerged from the various sons and daughters of Freud and Jung over the years, but the theoretical base is weak and we have to re-examine and repurpose that which has a use. I returned to the theme again as January drew to a close, writing about both apophatic and kataphatic approaches to leadership. Using the theological ideas of defining what God is not and what s/he is, was too good an irony to miss, and getting people to learn some new words is always good for the soul.
I put some effort into updating existing methods and the first was an attempt, still in development, was to create three trios of constraint types. The ASHEN framing of how we know created three posts. One a summary of the approach, the second offered a new way to think differently about leadership as referenced above. The final post had a little bit of polemic about the entrained thinking of the cybernetics fanboys I was encountering at the time, but its main focus was on using ASHEN to understand how to manage a more contextual approach to leadership. The major post in the period was on Complex Facilitation which is fundamental to all the various methods. The post had a list of principles and elicited several comments on the blog itself rather than LinkedIn. Another major development in the period was the creation of an approach to dealing with the appalling dichotomies I referenced at the start of this post, with the Trialectic method. A theoretical first post was followed by a practical second one outline four types of trialectic
Methods have been a strong theme these last two months with several posts on the subject which cumulated with the preliminary announcement of our creating an open-source wiki a key recent post – I also expand on why wiki’s work and my experience with Wikipedia.
Other people also blogged during the period. Sue announced her taking up a position as our first Cynefin artist in residence. Anna has been especially prolific with a follow up to her June post on the Centre’s climate change project to announce the next stage. She then wrote two reflective posts on that study, starting with an announcement of a series then moved on the patterns we discovered. That was followed by a discussion of the representation of dyads and triads with additional conclusions
Catherine Russell announced a newCovid-19 related programme that she is running with the Cynefin Centre
Valdis Krebs wrote a series of posts in dialogue with mine in preparation for the forthcoming Exploratory. The first looked at connections and the act of making connections using triangles, and there are strong links between that work and my use of triads. He followed that with two posts on Thinking about Networks, the first a response to my comments on SNA I responded with a post with the irresistible title of Assortive mating. Today Valdis published the second to which I will respond tomorrow.
The old cabinet of plumbing parts (which seemed appropriate) is by Jesse Orrico on Unsplash. Putting together all of this has been rather like installing central heating (which I have done without professional help in one house in St Albans)
The banner picture was taken from the summit of Cadair Idris (the same location as my last summary) but this time on day 67, the final day of my round, and through Wales walk on which I reported in the Páramo post on comfort and resilience referenced above. You can see the snow-covered hills of Snowdonia in the background and Dolgellau in the foreground – which has one of the best coffee shops in the world.