Combined models for pattern recognition

If you've been reading the blogs of Harold Jarche, Rob Paterson, and/or Dave Pollard, you're already familiar with Dave Snowden's Cynefin framework that all three make great use of when identifying patterns. If you've been reading John Robb and/or Michel Bauwens, you've become aware of David Ronfeldt's TIMN framework. This morning those two frameworks merged in my mind as one coherent model. Here's how the combination comes together in my current outlook:

Chaos - Tribal order

When situations are CHAOTIC, our minds function sub-optimally as I've previously explored in Baggage has a mind of its own and in Deciding about uncertain danger. Our limbic system overtakes our rationality. We act out our negative emotions with violence, herding instincts and abusive language. We see others as depersonalized objects or as hated enemies. We contribute to the chaos rather than introducing social order.

This results in in the patterns of war torn regions that inspired Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Black Swan model. Our minds fall for narrative fallacies to cope with the chaos. The instability invades civilized societies as terrorism, battles between drug cartels, maritime piracy, gang violence, organized crime and failed states. The widespread misconduct is infectious and breeds another generation addicted to acting out and feeding the chaos. None of the players have access to self control, self discipline or self restraint. They typically experience themselves as out-of-control and dangerous to themselves.

The only sustainable order amidst this pattern of chaos is TRIBAL. The kinds of order embodied in institutions, markets and networks fall apart when people act this unruly. Tribal order is what works. We gang together to realize some safety in numbers amidst the chaos and to improve our chances of survival. Interaction patterns fit the model of social darwinism: survival of the fittest and natural selection of dominance. The tribal chieftain is like an "alpha dog" who has risen to lead the pack of desperate individuals fearful of getting outcast, shamed or stigmatized. Deviants in the herd are kept in control with a gift economy where everyone contributes their fair share in tit-for-tat arrangements. Slackers, critics and power-mongers get outcast for disrupting the cohesion of the tribal order.

This series mash-up of the Cynefin and TIMN frameworks has evolved with the following posts:
Simple- Institutional order
Points of Differentiation
Cynefin practices applied to TIMN
Combining Relational Grammars
Changing a light bulb
Reading situational responses
Cooperating or collaborating?
Triform market spaces
Destructive impact of network entrants
TIMN practices
Speaking of frameworks
Emergent forms of TIMN


  1. It's an interesting way of looking at things ... what do you think it says about the thinking underlying this that all the people you quote and link to are guys?

    In your previous post on Strucuturing vibrant communities, you led with the importance of diversity. It's just as important from an intellectual standpoint. So while the synthesis of these two frameworks is interesting, it'd be even more interesting to bring in some perspectives that are left out from both.


  2. Jon: Thanks for adding your perspective here. If this was a news portal, or even a group-authored blog, the gender subtext and lack of diversity you're reading in the subtext of this post would be alarming to me. However, I view blogs as self expressions of personal viewpoints, passions, experiences, learning in process, etc. The blogosphere is a place where anyone and everyone can have a voice that combines into that essential diversity that eradicates silence, unjust discrimination, exploitation and abuse.

    Yet each blog is as particular and peculiar as we are as individuals with our own race, nationality, cultural heritage, faith tradition, sexual orientation, physical gender, personal history, baggage and talents.

    On the other hand, communities are not self expressions. They are representative of many and need to speak for their diversity. Voices that speak for the community need to follow your advice and include other points of view besides their own.

  3. For Jon, let me add that the Cynefin model was elaborated not only by Dave Snowden but in collaboration with Cynthia Kurtz at IBM and in an HBR article with Mary E. Boone.