From Complication to Complexity

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

If you don’t have four minutes, make them!  Here is one of the simplest explanations of the Cynefin framework and it is one of the most useful ways to understand the shift that we must make in the social sector.  I start most of my client work by arguing that the problem we are facing in the sector is that our system has been developed to address complex problems as if they were complicated.  For example, our urban public schools are trying to teach many kids who might be facing hunger, trauma, violence, lack of documentation and a myriad other social ills, but we are spending our time arguing about curricula and standardized tests.

By system I mean the whole of it.  Our organizational structures, our funding structures, our programmatic structures, our accountability structures, our problem solving structures – I really mean the whole of it!  That’s what system means!  Evolution requires adaptive change, looking through the lens of complexity can facilitate that change.

It is my hope that these four minutes will unlock all sorts of thoughts and ideas that you will be willing to share with us.  But if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you will notice at least two of our recurring themes in this presentation.  The first is the role of networks in understanding complexity.  The second is the power of story as a tool for understanding, living and making progress in a complex word.  I want to thank our friends at Cognitive Edge for the amazing work that they are doing with the Cynefin framework as well as our friends at Anecdote for advancing the power of story and for putting this video together.  Let’s shift.

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