I thoroughly enjoyed the Cynefin Seminar yesterday. As we say in Australia, “Do yourself a favor” – click through to that link and see if it is scheduled in your area soon.
Dave Snowden will challenge you to think about things differently, and has a remarkable capacity to entertain while doing it. Not surprising, I guess, that a Philosophy/Physics major, former Marxist student, former Jesuit, former IBM-er and current consultant to many commercial and government clients, has a wealth of stories to tell. The subject matter, Cynefin Framework and the application of Complexity to Human Systems is well developed and will require a great deal more reading and thinking to properly digest after the seminar.
The Canberra seminar had the extra bonus of only 5 attendees, so the agenda became fairly flexible – and dialogue and exploring specific questions/interests the norm. I think we spent an hour on the first slide alone!
So many ideas to share from the seminar, but let me limit this post to the specific ideas raised around the concept of resilience.
Back in 2010, in presentations at the BCI (Sydney) and WCDM (Toronto), I was talking about resilience as being a function of Robustness, Redundancy, Agility and Adaptability. It was interesting to listen to Snowden talk about these concepts, with subtle differences in the way the concepts are translated.
Snowden advocates the need to move from thinking in terms of robustness towards resilience. Is this context he means moving from thinking we can prevent something breaking by managing the risk and mitigating on the basis of what is probable. How often are we seeing these rare and unpredictable events occur recently?
He argues that for the future we need to move toward a model that accepts failure will occur and is prepared to respond to what is possible, rather than probable. In his model there are three key attributes to this concept of resilience;
- Early detection
- including before the incident even occurs, if possible.
- This would involve improving our ability to detect weak signals – what Snowden labels as “Anticipatory Awareness”
- Fast recovery
- To achieve this we need to architect for resilience – it is not all about making it up after the event
- Early exploitation
- of opportunities presented by the disruption.
In one of his blog posts Snowden observes that
“Agility properly understood is not about succeeding faster, but managing failure better.”
I think that is one of the best statements of the concept, certainly as it applies in this space, I have come across.
More on complexity thinking in future posts.
Do you think an approach informed by theory but rooted in practice, is attractive or not?
Do you encounter an anti-intellectual bias in your management? What about the risk/BC/resilience practitioners you encounter?
Would you use these definitions for resilience and agility? If not, why not?