Tom Haskins has presented an excellent series of posts on complexity, work and collaboration, comparing aspects of the Cynefin and TIMN frameworks. As I thought about what Tom has written I saw one more column that could be added to his comparison, provided by Shawn at Anecdote, and that is how we can best work together at different levels of complexity.
Even though all levels of complexity exist in our world, more of our work (especially knowledge-intensive work) deals with complex problems, whether they be social, environmental or technological. As can be seen in the table below, complex environments & problems are best addressed when we organize as networks; our work evolves around developing emergent practices; and we collaborate to achieve our goals. As Shawn’s post shows, coordination, cooperation and collaboration are not the same thing.
|Complexity (Cynefin)||Social (TIMN)||Practices||Group Work|
|Simple||Tribal + Institutional||Best||Coordination|
|Complicated||Tribal + Institutional + Markets||Good||Collaboration
|Complex||Tribal + Institutional + Markets + Networks||Emergent||Cooperation|
I’m putting this table up because it provides a quick view of why we have to change how we teach, train and work. Ask any organization how many of their problems are complex and how important it is to address these. Then find out how social networking is supported and encouraged. Ask how emergent practices are developed and whether anyone actually monitors the process or captures learning that enables emergence. Finally look at whether groups merely co-ordinate activities or perhaps co-operate and if there is real collaboration. As Shawn writes:
Collaboration works well for complex situations because the style of working collaboratively matches the nature of the issues that complex situations pose. Complexity is unpredictable, and collaborating is adaptable; complexity is messy – it’s difficult to work out the question, let alone the answer – and collaborating involves bringing together a diversity of people and talents to improvise and test possible approaches, all learning as you go. Complexity offers unique and novel conundrums, and collaboration draws on a deep foundation of trust to that fosters creativity and delivers innovations.
This is one more reason to consider a wirearchical management framework built on mutual trust.