Updates to Cynefin

(Don’t worry: this is little more than a Public Service Announcement for those enterprise-architecture folks who are interested in the Cynefin framework.)

From knowledge-management guru David Gurteen, I hear via Twitter that David Snowden is currently updating some of his views on Cynefin:

  • RT @DavidGurteen: RT @snowded: Continuing my rethinking of #cynefin in preparation for #calm alpha, more to follow  http://bit.ly/SYyXAP

Snowden’s blogposts to date on this include:

  • A work in progress (January 2012) – “For over a year now I have been playing with differ[ent] ways of representing the complex domain in Cynefin”
  • Disabling disorder (July 2012) – “Back in January I started to share some of my thinking about the next evolutionary phase of Cynefin … today I want to start sharing thoughts on the most neglected of all Cynefin domains namely disorder.”
  • Rethinking the complex domain of Cynefin (July 2012) – “the idea is that there is a optimal position that balances diversity of response with diversity of stimulus”

If you’re working with Cynefin, this is obviously going to be important to you: you’ll need to know about this.

I won’t make any comment on any of Snowden’s posts – it’s his framework, not mine, and as I’ve said elsewhere, I just don’t find it useful in enterprise-architecture these days: I prefer to use other sensemaking/decision-making frameworks such as VPEC-T and SCAN instead.

For what it’s worth, though – and yes, it may well be worth nothing – my understanding of the Disorder domain in Cynefin was that it was conceptually and/or functionally similar to the Buddhist concept of sunyata. That term is often loosely translated as ‘emptiness‘ or ‘the void’, though note that:

Emptiness (sunyata) must not be confused with nothingness. Emptiness is not non-existence and it is not non-reality.

Parallel to this ‘not non-reality’ would be the Taoist notion of ‘no-thing’:

Something mysteriously formed,
Born before heaven and earth,
In the silence and the void,
Standing alone and unchanging,
Ever present and in motion.

Or, to again use the Taoist term, the contrast between the Disorder domain and the ‘ten thousand things’ we see in or through the other Cynefin domains is that:

The ten thousand things are born of being.
Being is born of not-being.

(Quotes from Gia Fu Feng / Jane English translation, chs. 25 and 40.)

In other words, not an empty vacuum, but a space of ‘not-being’, a realm of infinite possibility that in part becomes shaped by our own process of sensemaking. Kind of like Schrodinger’s Cat, but applied to everything in the sensemaking space, perhaps? 🙂

Anyway, just a comment: hope it’s useful, is all.

7 Comments on “Updates to Cynefin

  1. Tom,

    Thanks for the post. Very insightful.

    The chapter of the Tao Te Ching that I find most relevant to Enterprise Architects regarding the concept of emptiness is Chapter 11:

    Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
    It is the center hole that makes it useful.
    Shape clay into a vessel;
    It is the space within that makes it useful.
    Cut doors and windows for a room;
    It is the holes which make it useful.
    Therefore profit comes from what is there;
    Usefulness from what is not there.

    Sometimes, in IT circles, we refer to this as the “whitespace” in a design–the part of the design left open, or in this context “empty”, to be filled in diverse ways as needed.

    I blogged about chapter 11 a while ago as “The Tao of Modularity:” http://bit.ly/55IvJb .

    • Hi Nick

      Very, very strongly agree about chapter 11 in the Tao Te Ching: probably the single most important guideline in any form of architecture.

  2. Hi Tom, Its always a pleasure reading your post on this blog.I am a big fan.
    I aspire to become a enterprise architect.Not sure if you have written on a topic how someone can become a enterprise architect.

    What it takes(Capabilities) and how to work on developing those(Roadmap)for someone who wants to pursue this career path. Please point me to post if you have already written on this. If not would you be kind of enough to share your thoughts on this?

    • Hi Pradeep

      As you’ll have noticed, I’ve, uh, written rather a lot on enterprise-architecture… my apologies… 🙁 – because yes, sometimes it does make it kinda hard to find what you need in amongst all those literally hundreds of different posts.

      Two posts that might help here:

      Also perhaps take a look at some of my enterprise-architecture books: for example, Everyday Enterprise-Architecture also focuses on the day-to-day challenges and practices that we will face, especially at a whole-of-enterprise scope. (At present you can download the whole book in landscape-layout PDF format from the Tetradian Books website – though it’s also available in other ebook-formats from LeanPub.com.

      Hope this helps, anyway – and please do let me know if you need more information or ideas on this.

  3. Thanks Tom for pointing me to the those useful links. Enterprise architect is a generalist..One who can connect the dots..someone who can see/paint the full picture..someone who has broader knowledge.
    So here are my questions:
    How someone can become a consummate generalist without getting insane as there is lot out there to learn because EA is the architecture of the enterprise? How do someone bring focus(Focus to not to focus on particular thing)? How do I create a specialist in me who is generalist?

    Also do you mentor budding Enterprise architect(Apart from sharing your knowledge/thoughts through Blog/Books etc) something like involving in your work(there could be legal implication?) or may be some other way. I am aware of the organizations who provides certification/training so specially looking something from you. If this is something you do or intent to do or if not let me ask what would make you do it 🙂

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