I’ve been reading as much of Dave Snowden’s work as possible, as I find the Cynefin framework makes a lot of sense to my own practice, which I’ve mentioned previously. In an earlier article, Snowden & Kurtz talk about an interesting case in The New Dynamics of Strategy: Sense-making in a Complex and Complicated World:
In another case, a group of West Point graduates were asked to manage the playtime of a kindergarten as a final year assignment. The cruel thing is that they were given time to prepare. They planned; they rationally identified objectives; they determined backup and response plans. They then tried to “order” children’s play based on rational design principles, and, in consequence, achieved chaos. They then observed what teachers do. Experienced teachers allow a degree of freedom at the start of the session, then intervene to stabilize desirable patterns and destabilize undesirable ones; and, when they are very clever, they seed the space so that the patterns they want are more likely to emerge.
To me, this case shows the weakness of instructional systems design. We need a design model that helps to template “desirable patterns”; recognise “undesirable patterns” and provide a variety of “seeds” for the learning environment. This would be a far better approach for learning, as any learning intervention involving several people is arguably in a complex environment. One aspect of complex environments, according to the Cynefin model, is that “Cause and effect are only coherent in retrospect and do not repeat”. Sounds like most learning environments I know.