Tinderbox Forum

Cynefin Framework - Map View

I follow @CardsCompendium on Twitter and the pinned tweet at the profile page pointed to this card, about the Cynefin Framework. There’s a wikipedia link to more about what the Cynefin Framework is on the linked card.

I’d offer a quick summary, but I’m not sure it lends itself to one, given my lack of experience with it. I would encourage anyone to click through and take a look. It relates to how we can refine problem domains, and has a strong spatial component.

I’d never heard of it before, but the idea is interesting, and I think it may be a natural application for the Map View in Tinderbox.

Did a quick search in the forum and it didn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere, so I just thought I’d just offer a mention here to bring it to other forum members’ attention as it may have some value or utility in their work.

I’d not seen this, but I do think map view lends itself to this sort of analysis. You might also use a 2 × 2 grid in an adornment as a quick tool for a small Cynefin study.


I’ve been delving more into this idea, and I suppose it’s not intrinsically relevant to Tinderbox, so perhaps it’s not something that belongs in the Forum. Nor do I necessarily expect a broader discussion to ensue, and certainly won’t be disappointed if this thread just evaporates into the ether. No biggie.

But… I watched this 24 minute Snowden interview and I’m kind of blown away by it. Now, maybe that’s his unique talent and I’m simply dazzled or bamboozled, but this seems like a super-smart guy who’s truly onto something. And Cynefin model is only mentioned once in the 24-min interview, so it doesn’t elaborate on the concept very much. What it does elucidate are some very important, I think, emerging concepts. I as I told @mwra in private correspondence, what initially drew my attention (apart from “map!”) was the “central” role of chaos.

I’m very interested/concerned that we are entering a period of increasing scale and intensity of chaos, the breakdown of order, in the world. And I’m looking around for ideas and ways of thinking that may offer some hope. The guiding insight I’ve kind’ve been following is that “the only way to win is not to play the game.” And nearly all mechanisms for restoring “order” rely on the existing “game.” We need a new way to look at the problem.

Anyway, regardless of anything else, I think this is 24 minutes well spent for any thinking person, certainly for the kinds of people who use Tinderbox; and the first 7 or so are pretty damn funny!

Please forgive me if anyone feels I’ve abused their time, and I won’t mind if someone simply deletes the thread. :grinning:


I think this is quite interesting!

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Thanks Dave

I enjoyed that 21 mins very much and has stimulated my thinking about the complex system context I find myself in ( The UK Health Service is about to undergo a very complex reorganisation in July and I am a small cog in a machine of people-widgets expected to create some order/improvement ).

I particularly resonated with the suggestion to remove causation language ( “complex systems don’t have drivers they have modulators…” - the ring of magnets metaphor guiding actions with differing polarities and strengths ) and that some words and ideas are the wrong attractors and simply creating awareness of this can guide systems to order. I loved “swarm intelligence can’t be negotiated with …”

Returning to your concerns of world order and increasing chaos then I don’t share that view or concern ( not least as the Andromeda galaxy collides in 4 billion years and our Sun will go out at some point and entropy gets us all in the end :grimacing: ) - Seriously I actually think we are living in the most ordered and stimulating epoch in the history of human kind ( a tiny blip in the scale of when time started ) and compared to say just 300 years ago when life really was brutal, dirty and short for the majority. I recommend Steven Pinker’s book “Enlightenment Now” for a more detailed and reflective exposition of that view.

Many thanks once again for the link - I’ll be sharing it in my team and off to learn more about the tools he obliquely references

cheers Mark


The Cynefin Framework has been around for a number of years, and has gone through a lot of development in that time. For those who want to read about it there is the Cynefin wiki at Cynefin.io. There are also a couple of books that contain a lot of coverage of the Framework: Cynefin: weaving sense-making into the fabric of our world by Dave Snowden and friends (ISBN 978-1-7353799-0-6) and Managing complexity (and chaos) in times of crisis: A field guide for decision makers inspired by the Cynefin framework published by the European Commission - print edition ISBN 978-92-76-28843-5 pdf ISBN 978-92-76-28844-2. And FWIW the name Cynefin is Welsh (as is Snowden) and its literal translation is ‘place of our multiple habitats or belongings’. Whilst the Framework covers making sense of Chaotic situations it offers a comprehensive view of a number of different environments (Clear, Complicated and Complex as well as Chaos) along with the concept of Aporia, which is a zone of ambiguity or confusion that you can enter deliberately as part of the process of making sense of the situation you find yourself in.


And the chances of any non-Welsh person pronouncing it correctly at first sight are very low, I would think!

Diolch yn fawr! (not that I am Welsh or a Welsh speaker – only a quarter Welsh).

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Ke-NEVin? Who knew?

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My great-grandfather had a house at this place, so I had a fair idea of what the pronunciation of Cynefin would be! (I knew how to pronounce “Cymru”, after all.)


Dave Snowden blows me away. I’d not heard of him until I met him in person at a Storytelling conference in Palm Springs around 2001 just after I gave my talk. When I heard his talk, I was hooked. At that time, he still worked for an IBM unit in the UK, but that got split out to his own entity. They have a product: Sensemaker.
His blog posts are always interesting.

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Huge fan of the cynefin framework. Reading the book (halfway through)

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Love this. Thanks for sharing.

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