The Cynefin Framework (and children’s parties)

I had the good fortune of attending Dave Snowden‘s workshop at the KMWorld conference in Washington D.C. last week. As I feared (or suppose hoped), this has ballooned my reading list.

This video above is a brief introduction to one of his central ideas, the Cynefin Framework, detailed in the HBR article A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making.

One of the more memorable items from his talk was about how to organize a children’s party (within the context of complexity). Anyone who’s been a parent and/or worked in a large corporation will find it amusing and insightful. I was happy to see it captured in this video below:

CIO: Execs Get Ready: Workers Will Soon Be Running Companies

From this CIO article… (Source)

Depending on the situation, it could take three, five or even 15 years for corporate managers to realize that the traditional corporate hierarchy no longer works, as younger, tech-savvy workers increasingly call for and use enterprise-level social collaboration tools. … “They need to understand what a collaborative organization really looks like. They need to give an appropriate amount of resources and attention to changing the way they were doing things in the past,” she added.

Forbes: 10 Things They Don’t Tell You In Business School

From this Forbes article… (Source)

6. If No One “Owns” A Project, It Won’t Get Done… Which is why all projects need champions. Not the kind who beats his chest and spews happy mission statements. The kind who’s backside is on the line if things don’t pan out. More importantly, the kind who has the authority and resources to make decisions that other people have to follow, else their backsides are on the line.

7. Be Clear. They actually do tell you this one in b-school, but not in so many words and not vehemently enough. The clearer you are, the more thoroughly you probably understand what you’re talking about, and the more capable and trustworthy you will seem to customers, colleagues and employees.Being clear has immense ramifications–on productivity, customer satisfaction and employee morale. If your Power Point deck contains the word “ideate,” cut, and do not paste. In fact, eliminate all jargon from everything you do. (If you think the word “utilize” is a smarter version of “use,” please, please read The Most Annoying Business Jargon.) This applies to electronic exchanges as well. The simplest, most straight forward emails can, and will, get twisted beyond meaningful comprehension. If the message is mission-critical, communicate face-to-face, or by phone, as best you can.

InformationWeek: How To Interview For VP: Expert Advice

From this InformationWeek article… (Source)

Candidates must sell themselves. I look for energy, structure in the answers, subtle efforts to influence, and the ability to lead. If a candidate can’t sell me, then how could he or she ever sell a new program to the business or a change in technical direction to the technical staff? Convincing people, often with incomplete information or unknown motives, is a fundamental role of an IT VP.

Having a plan for what you will do during the first six months is a critical differentiator. Don’t talk about goals without an accompanying plan. Don’t be concerned that the plan isn’t perfect.

InfoWeek: The Five Core Competencies For Developing IT Leaders

From this InfoWeek article… (Source)

Departmental directors should have mastered the basics of managing people, including teaming, motivation, follow-up, task assignment, legal issues, communications, and company policies. But many haven’t. High-potential directors often have gotten to where they are because of their deep personal knowledge of an area, a favorable set of circumstances, or a great team. Often, my first step in developing a high-potential director is to move him or her to a new area under a different VP and monitor carefully how the director and VP manage the change.

Business Week: The Most Important People in Your Network

From this Business Week article… (Source)

Employees that were rated as more innovative didn’t have bigger networks; rather, they had more bridging ties—ties that connected them to other employees who were themselves not connected.

If we are circulating too much with people we have known forever or people who themselves are all spending time in the same meetings and interactions, then we are not getting the performance impact we can from social-media tools. Bigger is not better. The magic lies in the new ideas and perspectives that can come from connections into different networks.

WSJ: The Genius of the Tinkerer

I remember reading once that an entrepreneur is simply someone that takes existing assets (or perhaps ideas) and reconfigures them into an arrangement that produces more value than in their present setup. It seemed such a dry description and lacked the sexy and exciting “invention out of thin air” that we have been trained to think is what happens in business.

As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve come to realize this definition is pretty accurate—“bricolage” as Steven Johnson points out this fantastic WSJ piece:

But ideas are works of bricolage. They are, almost inevitably, networks of other ideas. We take the ideas we’ve inherited or stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape. We like to think of our ideas as a $40,000 incubator, shipped direct from the factory, but in reality they’ve been cobbled together with spare parts that happened to be sitting in the garage.

He then goes on to discuss Stuart Kauffman’s concept of “the adjacent possible” to describe those first order combinations that appear in nature.

The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.

Finally, Johnson ties things back to modern “closed-door” corporate R&D:

The premise that innovation prospers when ideas can serendipitously connect and recombine with other ideas may seem logical enough, but the strange fact is that a great deal of the past two centuries of legal and folk wisdom about innovation has pursued the exact opposite argument, building walls between ideas. Ironically, those walls have been erected with the explicit aim of encouraging innovation. They go by many names: intellectual property, trade secrets, proprietary technology, top-secret R&D labs. But they share a founding assumption: that in the long run, innovation will increase if you put restrictions on the spread of new ideas, because those restrictions will allow the creators to collect large financial rewards from their inventions. And those rewards will then attract other innovators to follow in their path.

He ends with one of my favorite scenes from Apollo 13 where the engineers have to design a carbon dioxide filter from miscellaneous items aboard the damaged spacecraft dumped on to the table (“We gotta find a way to make this fit into a hole for this,” he says, and then points to the spare parts on the table, “using nothing but that”). (Source)

The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.

HBR: Worry Isn’t Work

Great Harvard Business Review article about judging yourself on your output rather than on your stress level. (Source)

Worry isn’t work. Being stressed out isn’t work. Anxiety isn’t work. Entertaining a sense of impending doom isn’t work. Incessant internal verbal punishment isn’t work. Indulging the great unknown fear in your own mind isn’t work. Hating yourself isn’t work.Work is the manifestation of value, and anyone who tells you that a person whose mind is 50% occupied with anxiety is more likely to manifest value is a person who isn’t manifesting much.It’s OK to take care of yourself. To take time to exercise. By all accounts, exercise improves brain function. It’s OK to eat well, and to slow down enough to eat consciously and appreciate the food. Proper nutrition improves brain function as well. Go on vacation. Meditate. Take a break each week for an hour to see a therapist, or a movie, or stop in a church, if that’s your practice. Sit quietly on your porch in the evening and reflect. Chaining yourself to your desk is no more correlated to productivity than mental self-annihilation.

Manifesto for Passionate Creatives

In PDF form, from John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison. Hagel further defines passion in this other blog post as… (Source)

…strong emotions that motivate us to move beyond our comfort zone and to achieve the potential that resides within us. Passion comes from within each of us; it cannot be imposed or mandated from outside. At the same time, it compels us to move outside, to engage with the world around us.