Open minded irrationality and Cynefin

This morning I've been pondering how to overlay the Cynefin model with my new model of open and closed minds. It only took a slight rearrangement to access the explanatory power of the combined models. Here's some of what the mash-up revealed to me:

When our minds are closed, we can handle SIMPLE tasks and situations. We're amenable to procedures, job aids and policy compliance formulas. Our left brains are functioning optimally for taking action. We become proponents of formal learning because our rationality dictates the use of linear models and logical sequences. We cannot handle self directed, improvisational or informal learning which are all far from SIMPLE. We make a thing of learning rather than an ongoing process. We relate to others in "I - it" dehumanizing terms, not with "I - thou" empathy.

When our minds are closed, our emotions, urges and passions become CHAOTIC. We cannot handle them rationally other than by repressing and denying them. Our inability to integrate them results in a "worst of both" solution. We experience outbursts of stifled emotions, pent up frustrations and simmering resentments. We rationally think these embarrassments give us "all the more reason" to keep a SIMPLE lid on all that seething CHAOS.

When our minds are open, we can handle COMPLICATED tasks and situations. We're amenable to working with others in collaborative enterprises. We're open to the complicated dynamics of social learning that Harold Jarche recently explored. We consider learning to involve ongoing processes that are full of surprises and satisfying discoveries instead of boring deliveries.

When our minds are open, our passions become positive, constructive and inspired. We're in tune with inner guidance that gives us a great sense of timing, a source of creativity and a freedom from anxieties. We experience our inner world as very COMPLEX and fascinating. We realize the "best of both" open minded quadrants. We get inspirations for what to say to others, do for others and seek from working with others. We learn to not oversimplify or repress our irrational side. We learn to value outlets for self expression as that integrates our passions with our productive purposes and projects.These rewarding experiences give us all the more reason to maintain COMPLICATED collaborations by serving them with our COMPLEX irrational sources of inspiration.



  1. Tom,

    This was a very interesting subject that you posted on. I had never really identified or compared what it meant to be open and closed minded, especially with Chaos being a main focus.

    The idea that a closed mind is unable to deal with the chaos and experience the outburst of emotions and frustrations makes perfect sense. I must say that I have known people in my past to be very close minded and the biggest reason they gave for not challenging their ideas, was that it was too overwhelming for them.

    I consider myself very open minded, almost to the point I can become unproductive sometimes. I find myself intrigued by complexities and difficult situations that require independent thinking. I usually find my ideas or solutions being grounded by less open-minded people.

    In my experiences working in groups, it is beneficial to have both types of mindsets. The open-minders will explore creative ideas and challenge the status quo, while the closed-minders will be there to questions whether creativeness is plausible. This usually leads to both sides defending their points and usually a better solution than either party could have come up with on their own. I feel both sides are equally important and we can learn a lot from the opposite mind-set.

    I really would like to read more about this battle of the minds if you will. Thanks for sharing.

    Anthony Ruth

  2. Thanks for all this Anthony, especially your request and a context for me to speak to. Everyone involved has an open mind when it seems beneficial to have both open and closed mindsets within group dynamics. The collaborators meet in the quadrant of Complicated and Rational explorations. Those that bring the creative, complex, divergent, possibility thinking to the group could be considered "more open-minded" because they work with their Irrational/Complex quadrant where the others do not. Those that bring the practical, simple, convergent, feasibility thinking are "less open-minded". Yet everyone's shared abilities to relate to each other, value their differences, combine their outlooks and find common ground solutions indicate open minded functionality throughout.

    I too experience myself as "very open minded, almost to the point I can become unproductive sometimes". I recognize that as a complex pattern where I am in a context of closed minded individuals who are acting incapable of meeting me in the Complicated/Rational quadrant. I am being what's missing in their exclusively closed-minded group dynamics. I function as a scapegoat, shadow character or thorn in the side of their oversimplified approaches. My becoming unproductive via my complexity, creativity and possibility thinking results from our mutual disconnection, unrelatedness and imposed context of working against each other's predilections.

    I'll do a follow up post to explore what you said about "the biggest reason they gave for not challenging their ideas, was that it was too overwhelming for them". Thanks again!