Cynefin: Learning to Live with/in Complicated/Complexity

We are glorious accidents of an unpredictable process with no drive to complexity, not the expected results of evolutionary principles that yearn to produce a creature capable of understanding the mode of its own necessary construction.  ~ Stephen Jay Gould

A respected colleague recently introduced me David Snowden‘s Cynefin (ku-nev-in) model. The framework itself appears holds immense capacity to help us (as shareholders in our school) to recognize and support the decisions and decision-making process within our ourselves as educators, within our staff, our school, as parents, and within our classrooms. Essentially, Cynefin is an approach to tackle problems.

Snowden succinctly and clearly shares and explains his Cynefin model.

Here’s an easier interpretation of the Cynefin Framework:

Snowden’s Cynefin Framework for decision-making (courtesy of Dan Snowden):

cynefin framework

And here’s a third version of the explanation of Cynefin model (it’s a little longer):

The Cynefin model reminds me that parts of my life, in particular parenting and work, live to a large degree within the complex realm. Oppositely, both public education system and the parenting help industry seem to exist within the simple/obvious realm. It is here that we are led to believe these spheres operate in the simple; as a whole teaching and parenting are good practice models that require a simple response: sense-categorize-respond. However, those of us living in one and/or both of these domains recognize that this is simply untrue and/or at the very least we acknowledge that best practices aren’t always the only practice (or appropriate decision) needing to be made.

Embracing the emergence and the creativity that arises while making decisions in the complex domain has a massive additive effect in that a degree of reflection and introspection are necessary. Living in complexity requires one to constantly review their practices, actions, values, beliefs, and even biases in order to learn from them.

I will continue to dive into this model throughout this school year using the Cynefin model to help me to frame problems within my professional teaching. Future blog posts will be my personal exploration and application of each of the four domains with the contest of my professional endeavours.


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