Simple Questions for Important Sorting

The Cynefin model / framework above is one that I use often, particularly when I’m trying to invoke a bit of nuanced knowing about complexity and its implications in how a group of people thinks about its work and interrelatedness.

Here’s an overview description. Here’s an article that describes a bit more.

One of my learnings with continued use of Cynefin is that there are ways that parts of what people do are simultaneously simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic. For example, sending the email is simple. It’s contents could at the same time be complicated (providing the data required). It’s implications could be complex (requires much more involved process of sense-making) or chaotic (requires an immediate step of grounding).

I love using Cynefin for the wisdom it tends to call out, or even disturb with people.

My goto person with Cynefin is Chris Corrigan. He’s made Cynefin central in his brain and in his heart in how he works with strategic conversations and wise action.

Recently Chris shared some very earthy questions (one of Chris’ superpowers) for each of the Cynefin domains. I’m finding these questions are simplifying and clarifying next layers for me in Cynefin.

For the simple (sending the email) — What is something that anyone can do when you show them once?

For the complicated (gathering the data for the email) — What is something you need an expert to do for you because they will do it right?

For the complex (implications of action) — What is something you can do in many different ways, and people have different ideas, and there’s no one right way to do?

For the chaotic (requires immediate step) — What is somewhat that is an immediate crisis and needs you to act NOW?

What I continue to love with Cynefin is the clarity it offers for how to act wisely in varied circumstances with some nuanced and skilled seeing. It has everything to do with leading wisely — knowing when to keep it simple and when to slow down the process to help a group of people go further together.

2 Replies to “Simple Questions for Important Sorting”

  1. intriguing. I’m having difficulty placing this into my circumstances, so I’ll check out the links for more information/examples. thank you!

    1. What I’ve found Saoirse is that there is a tendency too often to treat all challenges the same. Many get stuck, and frustrated, with a complex circumstance yet trying to treat it as if simple. It’s what leads to some of the conflict when people feel they have the right answer (simple) and try to impose it on the complex (when there are many right answers). The simple has energy of “get it done”. The complex has energy of “let’s explore.” I’ve found that nuancing the difference changes the leadership act and the leadership consciousness. Will be fun to see what you learn in all of this and perhaps riff a bit together.

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