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The Cynefin Framework

Natural Scienc, Humanities/Social Sciences

Thematic Area
Community Development, Landscape planning and design, Sociology and Philosophy, Sustainable Development, Systems thinking-Theoretical framework and assessment

The video contains a monologue from Dave Snowden, founder, and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge, an international research network, who gives a brief but comprehensive description of the Cynefin Framework he created in 1999.
The Cynefin framework is a decision-maker tool able to help determine the prevailing operative context of a problem so that decision-makers/planners/designers, etc., can make appropriate choices.
The Cynefin Framework defines five contexts in which humans face issues of different nature:
Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic, and Disorder, which is the starting point.
The Cynefin strategy suggests that starting from Disorder if we can recognize the context we are facing, we can develop a method to deal with the issue without risking oversimplification.
From the author:
“Simple contexts are characterized by stability and cause-and-effect relationships that are clear to everyone. Often, the right answer is self-evident. In this realm of “known knowns,” leaders must first assess the facts of a situation—that is, “sense” it—then categorize and respond to it.
Complicated contexts may contain multiple right answers, and though there is a clear relationship between cause and effect, not everyone can see it. This is the realm of “known unknowns.” Here, leaders must sense, analyze, and respond.
In a complex context, right answers can’t be ferreted out at all; rather, instructive patterns emerge if the leader conducts experiments that can safely fail. This is the realm of “unknown unknowns,” where much of contemporary business operates. Leaders in this context need to probe first, then sense, and then respond.
In a chaotic context, searching for right answers is pointless. The relationships between cause and effect are impossible to determine because they shift constantly and no manageable patterns exist. This is the realm of unknowables (the events of September 11, 2001, fall into this category). In this domain, a leader must first act to establish order, sense where stability is present, and then work to transform the situation from chaos to complexity.
The fifth context, disorder, applies when it is unclear which of the other four contexts is predominant"

More information can be obtained here:

Points of Strength
A clear definition of the various contexts:
Simple, Complicated, Complex, and Chaotic
with peculiar suggestions on how to act when dealing with a problem in a specific context:

- Simple: sense-categorize respond (Best Practice)
- Complicated: sense-analyze-respond (Good Practice)
- Complex: probe-sense-respond (Emergent Practice)
- Chaotic: act-sense-respond (Novel Practice)

This is an advantageous didactical approach, especially when the students are exposed to service-learning practices and could be easily overwhelmed by the issues they are asked to face and address.