Brett Miller has been pondering the use of the Cynefin framework in approaches to deliberate practice. Where I have begun my charts with Chaotic situations and ended up in the Complex domain, he begins in Simple and ends up in Chaotic. I've included his chart here. In response to a comment I left on his blog, Brett said:
When I look at something like chess or t'ai chi, for instance, I have a systems engineering kind of approach looking back to the beginning of the game. By the time someone today starts playing, all of the rules are well known and straightforward, and this is where all beginners start out - simple. Through training, experience, and deliberate practice the player becomes better equipped to handle complicated, complex, and ultimately chaotic situations.This got me thinking about these two different starting/ending quadrants, different meanings to the concept of "Novel Practice" in the Chaotic quadrant, and different contexts where the Cynefin framework might be applied. To end up at "Novel Practice" reminds me of the Zen concept of a "beginner's mind" that I characterized as "keeping the train of thought on the line of reasoning" in my post: Derailed by emotional baggage. Amidst turbulent unknowns, we are very vulnerable to being too smart for our own good, too captivated by our own thinking and too experienced to let go of our familiarity. We are better equipped to take whatever comes along when we are innocent, aware and receptive.
To end up in the Complex quadrant with "Emergent Practice" for me evokes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's concept of the deeply satisfying "Flow State". Time stands still while a sense of what to do comes to mind. We remain sharp minded while no longer striving to make things happen. This correlates with the Zen concept of "wu wei" (non-doing or effortless action). Both end points are indications of mastery like the outcomes of 10,000 hours of practice that Malcolm Gladwell explored in Outliers - The Story of Success.
I also realized it may make a huge difference whether the process can get started right away. When we can jump right in, I see the pattern of beginning in Chaos and ending up in Complexity. When a lot of advance preparation gets involved to qualify for a first start, I see the opposite pattern of beginning in Simple and ending up in Chaos. Here's some examples of the two kinds of situations:
- When we're thinking of writing our first blog, the number of possible, enjoyable, and familiar topics to write about seems overwhelmingly Chaotic. There is no good or best way to choose the right topic to focus a blog on. It's better to simply begin, acting without a plan and see what direction evolves. When we're preparing to develop a new blogging platform to compete with Blogger, WordPress and the rest, we cannot jump right in. We have to start out on Simple programming tasks like exploring the use of particular library patterns for social networking software.
- When we're getting our first cell phone, most think there's no need to start out with an extra-simple phone. New consumer technologies offer an opportunity to dive right in and figure out the feature sets by experimentation. We can mess around to see what works without a plan, even though the number and complexity of the features can seem Chaotic. When we're getting our first suite of software products for making professional videos, interactive tutorials or print publications, it's imperative to start with simple tasks. The possibility of getting overwhelmed and defeated looms large.
- When we're learning in simulation, we can start out crashing airplanes or tampering with urban planning without hesitation. What it takes to keep the plane in flight or the city out of decay appears so Chaotic we can only take action and see what happens. That how immersive scenarios expect us to learn. When we're practicing the flight of real aircraft or urban planning for a real city, we've got to start with Simple tasks to stay out of serious trouble.
It then follows that the societal evolution in the TIMN model gets started without preparation. Tribes form without advance certification training. Institutional forms of governance start to oversee the tribes and provide some infrastructure without a prior history of starting governments. In those contexts, starting with the "Novel Practice" in the Chaotic quadrant fits.