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Cynefin and TIMN and I-space and CVF and …

Posted by: on Mar 19, 2013 | No Comments
I've been elbow-deep in examining different frameworks for understanding organizations, including TIMN, CVF, I-Space, and Cynefin. To this point, I've considered Cynefin the odd one out, since it (a) focuses on the environment rather than work organization itself, and (b) consequently doesn't use variants of tribes/clans, institutions/bureaucracies, markets/exchanges, and networks/adhocracies.

But today a stray tweet from Harold Jarche brought my attention to the blogwork he and others have done in relating TIMN and Cynefin. I haven't been able to absorb this work yet, so I'm not ready to endorse it, but it certainly looks interesting:

As so often happens, people are approaching some of the same problems from different directions—and in some cases, via different measures. As Dave Snowden points out elsewhere, one reason that so many of these frameworks are quadriform is that they emerge from 2x2 matrices. (For instance, in its early days, Cynefin was built on two axes: restricted/open and learning/training.) 

And here I want to inject a note of caution. It's easy to start thinking on the basis of these multiple quadriform frameworks that there's simply four forms—to mistake the map for the territory, so to speak. And once you make that assumption, it's tempting to make straightforward equivalences among the frameworks. 

I don't think any of the authors linked above are doing that, but at the beginning of my investigations, that was my impulse. Now I'm taking a second look at them, reining in that impulse and trying to discern the differences among the frameworks. There are some important lessons here, but also pitfalls. 

Finally, let me bring this back to my home discipline, rhetoric. As I argued a few years ago, understanding the complexities of such models can help rhetoricians, I think. And that's because what is persuasive can change in different sociocultural environments—but we often examine persuasion as if it is founded on eternal principles. We expect arguments to be coherent, well-structured in terms of logos, supplemented appropriately by pathos and ethos. And those characteristics do describe a well-formed argument—for an early-institutional society such as ancient Greece. Do they describe a well-formed argument for a TIMN society? For a company working in the Complex environment described in Cynefin? For an adhocracy in I-space?