H

The Library

Joan Goppelt USA
Cognitive Edge methods and tools enhance our understanding of social complexity and narrative as we harness stories and storytelling both as an activity of understanding and a process of creation.

Since 2008, we at Act Too Consulting have been using Cognitive Edge methods and the SenseMaker® software to help us focus on complexity and narrative in our work as organization development consultants and organizational systems researchers. We have used the methods and software in a variety of client projects, in particular a systems engineering organization’s strategic planning event. Using the Cynefin Framework, we developed a set of questions to help our client uncover what cognitive perspectives they might be taking. Based on that perspective awareness they could develop different action sets for each focus area. For those clearly in the complex space we encouraged the use of safe-fail experiments to enable learning and adaption.

We (Keith Ray and I) have our own practice as independent organization development consultants and organizational systems researchers. We began learning about Cognitive Edge methods while working with a government client in 2008. At the time we were searching for alternative methods of creating more impact with the complex systems of our large government and high technology clients. By enhancing our understanding of social complexity and narrative, Cognitive Edge methods and tools have helped us focus on stories and storytelling as both an activity of understanding and a process of creation.

We have used the Cynefin framework when preparing for strategic planning events. In one instance, the strategic focus areas for the next year had already been named by the lead of the systems engineering organization that was our client. We developed a set of questions based on the framework to help the focus area teams uncover what cognitive perspective they might be taking. For example, was the implementation of the goal going to be straightforward and procedural (ordered – simple), based on a set of experts doing analysis (ordered – complicated), or a long-standing recurring sticky issue (unordered – complex)? Based on that perspective awareness they could develop different action sets for each focus area. For those clearly in the complex space we encouraged the use of safe-fail experiments to enable learning and adaption.

This simple intervention based on the framework provided a powerful organizing principle for the group. This in turn shortcut the sometimes lengthy strategic planning discussions that resulted in over analysis, over planning, and little to no action by allowing a different and appropriate type of conversation for each type of issue. For example, assigning actions to various people solved those issues that were in the simple domain. Those issues that were in the complex domain were approached by multiple conversations with different groups of people and are still occurring.