Some notes that came up for me almost a month back, on the SCAN framework for sensemaking and decision-making, and that I hadn’t gotten round to documenting until now.
I was reminded that I hadn’t posted these notes when I saw Mark Foden refer to the Cynefin framework in his talk at the Integrated EA conference, to illustrate the difference between a context that’s merely complicated, and one that’s genuinely complex – the latter often because it includes a variety of ‘people-issues’ and suchlike. The Cynefin framework is quite useful for illustrating that difference.
Yet over the past few years – as I’ve described in quite a few of my previous posts, such as ‘A human view of Simple, Complicated and Complex‘, and ‘Ensuring that the Simple stays simple‘ – I’ve become increasingly wary of the term ‘complex’: the problem is not in the term itself, but in the fact that people interpret it in so many different ways. For example, much of what IT-folks might call ‘complexity’ – because it’s, well, complex, isn’t it? – would be described instead by aficionados of complexity-science merely as high levels of ‘complicatedness’ – the key distinction being that it expects a predictable and repeatable result. Hence a lot of unnecessary confusion and, occasionally, heated argument, that really doesn’t help anyone at all. That’s one of the key reasons why, in SCAN, I switched over to using ‘Ambiguous’ instead: it’s perhaps not as precise a term as ‘complex’, but at least it’s unambiguous about the existence of the ambiguous!
Which brings me back to those notes, because I’d been building small collection of alternate keywords for each of the ‘domains’ in SCAN. None of these keywords replace anything: it’s just that, following the same principles of context-space mapping that underlie SCAN itself, they add extra layers of richness to the sensemaking by providing a kind of contrast, cross-reference, cross-check and suchlike. Anyway, here’s the list so far:
‘S‘ domain: Simple and Straightforward (high-repeatability, at or near moment of action):
- Speed [don't feel, don't think, just do]
- Switch [as in predefined flowchart, 'no thinking required']
‘C‘ domain: Complicated but Controllable (high-repeatability, at distance from moment of action):
‘A‘ domain: Ambiguous but Actionable (low-repeatability, at distance from moment of action):
- Ask [as in the uncertainty of experimentation, rather than the (apparent) certainty of calculation]
‘N‘ domain: Not-known, None-of-the-above (low-repeatability, at or near moment of action):
- No idea
- No time to think
- Newness [as in (near)-unique, therefore no certain rules]
Any other suggestions that you’d add to this?