Dave Snowden’s Blog

The ethics of unintended consequences

27 Jan 15 · 10:46 pm

I taught the first day of of the Cynefin and Sense-making course here in Zurich without slides.   I'm breaking the pattern entrainment of the slides I used and modified for the last two years by finding different ways to explain and expand on some of the consequences of thinking from a complexity perspective.  One of the aspects of speaking in this way is that you discover new ways of explaining things, but also you get new insights and understanding.  In effect the law of unintended consequences come into play if you relax constraints.

Now unintended consequences are very important for complexity thinking.  Chandler in his excellent book on Resilience makes the point that in a complex world governments have to be take responsibility for the unintended consequences of their actions and that understanding this is key to the future.   In a complex adaptive system we have dispositionality not causality, so when we act we cannot know what will happen.  That means we need to maintain the ability to respond quickly, something I brought in at the end when I talked about complexity approaches to project management.

Now we all know about the negative unintended consequences.   The picture is of a cane toad, introduced into Australia to control pests which is now a pest in itself.  Rhododendrons in Snowdonia, Rabbits in New Zealand and many other cases come to mind.   But there are also good ones, the accidental insights (some of which are examples of exaptation) are key to progress.  So managing complexity is about a reflective awareness of, and acceptance of, the...

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Guest Blog

Announcing the first SenseMaker®-specific courses - sign up now!

By Tony Quinlan  ·  5 Jan 15  ·  6:02 pm

As a friend of Cognitive Edge, you may have attended courses, read the blogs and used the techniques - but wondered about how to take the next step to actual implementation of SenseMaker® with clients or in-house. Without experience, it’s difficult to convince potential sponsors and yet without willing sponsors, it’s impossible to get experience.  Here’s where that changes. These new courses are for anyone who has heard about SenseMaker® but needed more detailed knowledge and practical examples before they actually run one.

Who are these for?

  • People who’ve heard about SenseMaker® but need specific guidance about what it would take to actually run one
  • Consultants who want to supplement Cognitive Edge and narrative techniques with SenseMaker® to gain greater insight and to tap into larger volumes of people
  • Market leaders who have already run an initial SenseMaker® and want advice on how to manage aspects differently the next time

We are starting these courses with the most crucial elements, with more courses to be introduced from April onwards for other elements.

If you’re looking to work with SenseMaker®, these courses will combine theory, exercises and examples from the field to increase your capacity to use SenseMaker® regardless of sector, topic or application.

The first courses therefore are:

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