Dave Snowden

Resonance in meaning

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Many moons ago in the early days of knowledge management I argued that the ubiquitous DIKW pyramid was both flawed and dangerous. At one event I even satirised it by adding a layer above Wisdom namely eschatological realisation. I was speaking before one idiot who was setting out his stall as the founding father if wisdom management. Those of us managing knowledge were obvious an inferior form of life. I wish I had recorded it and I doubt I could reproduce it. The father of wisdom management didn’t realise he was being satirised and for the next year kept wanting to come and talk to his wisdom board about ER. He finally got the satire and hasn’t spoken to me since. A few years later someone in Australia wanted me to take serious a framework which had eight (yes eight) levels above wisdom all of the with more and more pretentious titles. Satire aside, and despite my love of Eliot’s Choruses from the Rock, I started to talk about shared knowledge allowing data to be informative. For the non accountant a set of financial reports is simple data, but for another accountant with a shared knowledge base it is information.

In effect you need some type of resonance for any meaning to take place. Now a lot of this came together today in a skype call with good (and stimulating) friends in Stanford and UCSD. In fact a lot of things came together so this post may not be as coherent as I would like but I wanted to write it down and get it out there. A lot of work in many of the fields I am interested in use the idea of information transmission as a key element, IN a biological system I can see the point, but human systems are different. One of the reasons for that is the knowledge element, we create social, narrative and experiential contacts that radically influence what information we pay attention to, and critically how we interpret it. A cell received information and responds accordingly. Humans may not even pay attention to information if there is no natural resonance or pre-dispositional state to receive the information. A common narrative dispositional state in a community allows for rapid and effective triggering of complex knowledge concepts associated with the information stimulus. Its not a one for one …

Now this underpins a lot of SenseMaker® and the signification structure, but it also is key to narrative based definitions of Cynefin. I can also link this in the assemblage mapping as that would allow us to identify what messages, or types of messages would have any resonance with any community.

More to come …

  • jonhusband

    This last half of your 2nd para made me think of the issues explored in the Denis Noble session in the tent at Hay-o-Wye last May:


    By the way he has a new book out (December 2016) titled “Dance To The Tune of Life – Biological Relativity” . (Cambridge University Press)

    • Patrick2001

      Thank you for that link @jonhusband:disqus ! I just watched this amazing presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3WenGjyokg (Life is a process that is not programmed at the molecular level. As a
      software engineer, I am tempted to say “Life is not programmed in
      assembler.” ;-)).

      I personally feel, very strongly, that a “back link” between experience / thinking and the body (cell nucleus / gene expression / DNA) does exist. In the first part of the presentation, a pathway that exists from outside the cell into the nucleus is shown. However, I am clueless, how a perception or thought would gain “access” to that mechanism. (?)

      • Chris Corrigan

        Epigenetics begins to answer this question of yours. It is now being used extensively to inform trauma-informed practice and policy development.

  • Michael Hill

    UCSD? Interested if that’s University of California San Diego, since I’m nearby. If so, would be interested in who they so I might see what they are working on and perhaps exchange ideas with new people.

    • Dave Snowden

      I’ll update when we have made a little more progress. There may be a linked event soon

  • Andreas Esser

    Thank you, Dave! Every time I have to do with the DIKW pyramid, it bothers me more and more. It looks to me much more like a construct for the justification of linear, imperative programming (especially ETL processes). Just fiddle enough to the data—at the end you have created wisdom. Does anyone there have a clear idea of what data and what information is? Not to mention knowledge and wisdom?