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The Library

Keith Ray USA
Cognitive Edge narrative methods allow simultaneous “zoom in” to understand the interpersonal interactions for culture change and “zoom out” for macro-level changes in patterns of interaction.

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 one involving a US government organization where anecdote circles were used to capture narratives from participants in a leadership development program, and one of the outcomes of this study was several safe-to-fail experiments. We appreciate and value our Cognitive Edge Network membership.

We (Joan Goppelt 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.

One of our recent projects involves researching how leadership development at the individual level influences larger culture change within a US government organization. We are using the narrative research techniques based upon Cognitive Edge methods and SenseMaker® technology. Our role is to understand what the participants in the leadership development program are bringing back in their daily interactions in the workplace and how that is creating shifts in interaction patterns. After developing a signifier set and prompting questions to use in interviews and anecdote circles, we gathered stories from participants about episodes of interaction they would attribute to their leadership development experience.

Cognitive Edge narrative methods have allowed us to simultaneously “zoom in” and understand the interpersonal micro-level interactions that lead to culture change and “zoom out” on the macro-level changes in patterns of interaction. One interesting though not surprising finding was that though people told many more “positive” anecdotes of personal change during the data collection, they told their “negative” stories to each other much more often in everyday conversations.  The theme of telling more stories of success has entered into the conversation of the organization and it remains to be seen what affect this will have on the effort. We will eventually expand the story collection within the social network that work with these participants and capture their stories of working with them. The results of this study have already spawned several safe-fail experiments and modified forms of interaction.