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See-Attend-Act

By Dave Snowden  ·  June 11, 2013  ·  Musings

I've been using this Gaping Void cartoon for some time to illustrate a key model that originally came out of work Gary Klein and I did in Singapore several years ago.  The phrase See-Attend-Act is intended as a counter to the normal assumption in organisations that if you put the right information in front of the right people at the right time and if they have the right competences and the right training then they will make the right decisions.  Now in practice whether you even see something in the first place is in question, even if it is right in front of you.   Even if you see it you may not pay attention to it and action is a whole different ball park.   The idea of the phrase or model or whatever is to make people realise that in systems design, or anything else for that matter, they need to pay attention to all three and not just make assumptions.

I used the cartoon and the model as the turning point from theory to methods on day one of a sold out four day Cognitive Edge training course here in Melbourne.  Over the last few months we have been working on the modularisation of the material with the aim of creating a more coherent narrative as well as ensuring that each day stands on its own.   So day one is Complexity and how you can manage it, day two is all about Cynefin, day three the organisational and human aspects with day four covering narrative.  

Historically I have always moved directly into Cynefin so it has been an interesting experiment to leave that for day two, which allows a focus on the broad principles of managing a complex environment along with key related items such as coherence, power laws and exaptation.  The morning (which is also a stand alone course) allowed for several discussions on treating complex problems as if they were ordered along with aspects of creating human sensor networks using SenseMaker® and some of the new ideas for innovation based around managed serendipity.  

All of that made it easier to move into two techniques in the afternoon.  Future Backwards, explained in the context of side-casting and ABIDE (attractors, boundaries, identity, diversity and environment) as a perspective question to assist decision making.  I finished off with the new Leadership table but I think that is Cynefin specific so it may go to day two on future programmes leaving a little more time for a full future backwards exercise.

Some of the participants may not realise this, but it was a more relaxed pace in terms of content but its still a lot to take in.  Actually the content is fairly low, but its very different and that takes more time to absorb!