Our official kick off to CAST begins with the keynote being delivered by David Snowden. His talk is a focus on how “Context is Everything” and how this relates to the natural sciences. A first thought is that we don’t really “test everything” as a natural approach to how we look at the world. The first step is looking at the Acts of Knowing, which is predicated on “we only know what we know when we need to know it.” Part of this is that it is an evolutionary aspect to our development. We don’t look to learn everything and hold everything, as it is impractical. Additionally, “we always know more than we can say and will always say more than we can write down.”
A first thought is that we don’t really “test everything” as a natural approach to how we look at the world. The first step is looking at the Acts of Knowing, which is predicated on “we only know what we know when we need to know it.” Part of this is that it is an evolutionary aspect to our development. We don’t look to learn everything and hold everything, as it is impractical. Additionally, “we always know more than we can say and will always say more than we can write down.”
The body of knowledge that we know is filled with a variety of levels of knowledge, stemming from the main body and then going into tacit knowledge that we can only gain from experience. Thus, to really learn and be effective, you need to be failing constantly, which may sound counter-intuitive. We likewise learn through stories of failure, as opposed to stories of success. Knowledge is messy. It’s not an orderly development. It comes in fits and starts and is reinforced by experiences, often failures, and we deal with a variety of challenges trying to build that knowledge.
David is primarily known for popularizing the Cynefin Framework. The framework has a range of knowledge groupings. First, there is Obvious knowledge with rigid constraints (we sense, categorize and respond) and that’s where the idea of Best Practices comes in. In Complicated knowledge, there are governing constraints (we sense, analyze and respond). This is where we consider Good Practices, knowing that there are limits to what we can do, but that we are able to make choices about what we do determined by what the analysis indicates makes sense for that instance. there is also Chaotic Knowledge, where there is an absence of constraints (we sense, react and respond). This is the domain of Novel Practices. Finally, there is Complex Knowledge, which enables constraints in the first place (we probe, we sense, and we respond). This is the domain of Emergent Practices, where we are developing ideas and literally experimenting with them. If you are thinking “knowledge can move around these areas” you are correct. This is why it’s important to realize that the knowledge we are trying to wrap our heads around is a moving target. It may exist in these domains, but there’s no guarantee they will stay there.
One of the key areas of Cynefin is an aid to help understand where we need to focus our attention. To this end, we have Anticipatory Triggers, which means that as we see and analyze situations, we realize that there are areas that provide those triggers that help us pay attention to the right things. The key takeaway here is that there are boundaries to what we know and that we at times cross those boundaries, so knowing when we do and what happens when we do.
Open Season started with a question about rituals that we all do to help us transition to new experiences. In some cases, we change clothes, or we run through a series of routines. These rituals help us to change our view and our focus. We behave differently after having performed these rituals, and it allows us a way to look at things in a different manner.
Another question focused on the idea that conflict tends to increase the ability to scan what we are seeing and what we react to. Consensus causes us to scan less, which makes sense. We tend to work less hard to seek out an error with areas we agree with.