Reading situational responses

Living in a "Quadriform society" (T+I+M+N), we're constantly exposed to situational responses from tribal, institutional, market and network organizations. Chaotic, simple, complicated and complex situations are mixed up together. We're constantly wondering "where did that come from?". We're always trying to get a read on the responses we're seeing to the varied situations we're immersed in. Here's one way to sort out the responses that became clear to me by pondering the implications of Harold Jarche's added Group Work parameter to this evolving mash-up of the Cynefin and TIMN models.
  1. Tribal responses are lacking in coordination, cooperation and collaboration. They act against other tribes and institutions. They effectively undermine their own market position as a valuable provider, trusted source and understanding relater to consumers seeking cooperation with what they need. Tribal responses isolate themselves from the inter-dependent networks in their midst as if the network is more of the same chaos keeping them under siege.
  2. Institutional responses are lacking in cooperation and collaboration. They successfully coordinate their simple internal efforts with best practices while acting against outside interests. They discard their own failures onto their surroundings while making enemies of those seeking social justice, sustainable models, cleaner environments or other larger issues. They develop reputations for delivering reliable quality at what they have always done while proving to the market they cannot respond, adapt, evolve or learn from what's changing. Institutional responses firewall themselves off from the networks in their midst for security reasons involving continuing chaotic situations and others' tribal responses to the chaos.
  3. Market responses are lacking in collaboration. They successfully cooperate and coordinate with diverse niches, interest groups, demographic segments and consumer advocacy groups. Market responses act against rival providers while striving to better serve those who've adopted their differentiated and isolated value proposition. They practice empathy to allow for the value they provide to be intrinsic, unique to each beneficiary and decided in the eyes of the beholder. They cooperate with the long tail of active consumers by democratizing what institutions have centralized, controlled, restricted access to and mass produced. They utilize networks in their midst to get some buzz, spread their word, and generate some demand for what they offer.
  4. Network responses lack nothing. They collaborate with highly interdependent communities. They contribute to the common good altruistically, expecting nothing in return. The network returns the favor by extending the reach, enhancing the reputation and disseminating the value of each contribution. Network responses empower each participant to do their thing for the good of the whole and for their individual interests at the same time. They provide platforms for self expression that gives others the impression of understanding, respect, inclusion and permission to do the same. The usual problems that fallout from tribal, institutional and market responses vanish in the presence of network responses.

With these four ways to read the responses to any situation, it then become possible to define variations in situational literacy/illiteracy:
  1. Tribal responses are completely illiterate. They cannot get a read on institutional, market or network responses. Everything appears chaotic, out of control and unmanageable. Everything calls for a tribal response. Every response is tribal regardless of how big, well funded, long established, connected or responsive.
  2. Institutional responses can read tribal responses. They get the opportunity to impose control on out-of-control actions. They handle the constant danger of chaotic situations fueled by tribal responses. However, institutional responses cannot get a separate read on market and network responses. They equate markets with signs of tribal responses: being out of control, lacking coordination and violating their legally protected, proprietary interests. They view the network as equally tribal, aiming to put the institution out of business, undermining time-honored credibility, destroying their brands and disrupting their business models. They read a black and white subtext of insider/outsider, controlled/chaos, and with us/against us.
  3. Market responses can read institutional and tribal responses. They read shades of gray, middle ground between polarized extremes and nuanced subtleties. Market responses sees leveraging an apparent shortcoming where institutions see a weakness to keep hidden. Market responses create opportunities proactively by getting a read on who and how institutions and market rivals fail to serve, solve problems and adapt to the changing times. They recognize how customers form tribes of common interest, expression and connections. They see how to become less controlling, more accommodating and increasingly open without going into a panic like institutional and tribal responses.
  4. Network responses can get a read on all other responses. They read in living color. Network responses see how everything results from everything being connected. The network read of a situation is far more complex than we can put into sequences of words of spoken or written languages. Network responses take it all in. The read of the situation sounds like "Yes!"


  1. It really should be the other way around - 'collaboration' for 'complicated' and 'cooperation' for complex.

  2. Thanks for provoking some deeper reflection, Stephen. On Harold's original blog post I added a comment where I imagined high school teachers cooperating with each other's course requirements in a complicated/market context and collaborate with the students, as if they were relating as peer to peer with students, in a complex/network context.

    I'll explore what you're proposing in my next post here.

  3. I think it is the right way around because it does depend on a definition of collaboration. From my research I have noted the high degree of complexity of collaboration that operates in both the physical and virtual worlds as well as being very high risk driven towards an uncertain goal. That is, those who collaborate are highly vulnerable and exposed. On the other hand, participation in a cooperative venture is negotiated and agreed around a known goal. I would argue that collaboration is the highest order of working together and highly complex.

  4. Thanks for the this Murl! I've included your insights in the followup post. This helps me sort out the differences between cooperation and collaboration.


  5. Commenting on your activity rather than your output here... so you like mashing up quadriform models? I have collected a bunch of them together in a way that might interest you: , or linking deeper:

  6. Neil: Thanks for the links to your exceptional wiki. I'm amazed at the vast number of frameworks you've assembled into one place. There's so much I want to explore when I can find the time. Your wiki seems to me like the diamond sutra of Hinduism that sees a vast number of sparkling facets on the outside of the diamond, and sees one unifying gem from the inside.

    I too have searched for what you're calling "the structure of concern". I've been very satisfied with the answer Carl Jung arrived at. He posited that there is an archetype of the Self that appears in symbols of fours, mandalas, wheels and compasses. He sensed that threesomes like Freud's id-ego-superego or Christianity's Trinity were not healing, resolved or complete. In countless dreams he analyzed, problems disappeared when a fourth element was added. Foursomes have the power to transform what is stuck, problematic and dysfunctional. In his own framework, he combined ego, shadow, anima/animus guide to the soul, and the Self. I suspect he would see everyone of those frameworks in your wiki as comprehensive understandings, whole pictures and fully realized explorations of a domain of concern. Each foursome has healing potential when fully applied.

    I worked for Ichak Adizes a brief while in 1977 after taking his class at UCLA. I was impressed by the transformative power of his PAEI and CAPI models. It's not surprising to me that he served as a launch pad for your own remarkable exploration. He inspired me also.

  7. I'm glad you found the wiki interesting. It's rare that I get a chance to introduce someone to it, since it is a "big bite" information resource, and time is such a precious commodity for everyone. Having a chance to share it reminds me that I have to get back to tending it again. I have 3 or 4 more models to add. Something very big is going on here, and it is highly under-acknowledged in our intellectual culture.

    I find Jung's take on this illuminating from the perspective of individual development, but the question motivating me is different. I want to know "what is it about the universe that gives rise to these four timespacematterenergyinformation horizons?" Whether it's on the level of the psyche, of the social or of the inanimate - why these four patterns? I am getting the most mileage out of theoretical ecology as an explanatory - or at least a descriptive - grounds for answers to my question.

    Ichak's project continues to interest me as well. I am still trying to find my place in the Adizes network, since I am not currently a management consultant, but it does seem to me that he has a perspective to offer on organizations that few else can match - unique and powerful, and again, under-emphasized in our intellectual culture.

  8. On the topic of adding a few more models to your wiki, there was a book published in 1990 with 67 four quadrant models in it. There's some redundancy with your thorough collection, but I suspect there are also many valuable additions. Of course I own the book with my parallel passion for "Insanely Comprehensive Exploratory Research". The book is "Windows into organizations by John W Newstom / Jon L. Pierce.

    In my experience, digital resources that can be searched by Google and other search engine spiders escape that prison of being "highly under-acknowledged in our intellectual culture". I continually marvel at the quantity of people who find my blog by using their own keywords to search the web and have something I wrote show up in the search results. You might also put copies of your two books on for free download since that platform even counts the number of hits from search spiders for each document stored there.

    Your "what about the Universe...?" question is larger in scope than I have previously pondered. I'm glad to know you're keeping that in mind. The native American answer might be that "the four directions are the order of the universe as evident by everything in it".

    I know from my own management consulting experiences in the 80's that personality profiles are hot button issues for most people. They don't want to be labeled by DISC, Myers-Briggs or Ichak's PAEI typology. I've wondered over the years if the Adizes methodology has been a so-called "well kept secret" because it's based on personalities. The approaches that have caught on like wildfire over the past few decades have dealt with excellence, total quality, reengineering, enterprise longevity, etc. Note the absence of frameworks that address teamwork, conflict resolution, staffing wisely, life cycle transitions and the other strengths of Ichak's approach.

    Take care :-)