Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

8 May 2009

Systems-Thinking, Models, & Chaos

Clark @ 4:28 PM

In a conversation I had yesterday, we were talking about how not enough people were using systems-thinking. I realize schools don’t prepare for it sufficiently, but it also made me think about why it’s so necessary.

Cynefin_frameworkGetting back to my riff on chaos, if things are getting more random, as such would predict (e.g. in the complex or chaotic quadrants of the Cynefin model), our existing processes are less likely to work.  Off-the-shelf solutions won’t cut it, and you’ll need to be looking for matching patterns that will give you some guidance about how to act.  However, the relevant models may come from unexpected places.  That’s been the source of much innovation, and a motivation for me in my model collecting and generating.

It comes back to reasoning, and one of the most powerful tools we have is analogical reasoning.That’s a model that taps into our cognitive architecture’s orientation towards pattern-matching, and helping pull up a good match.  My Ph.D. was focused on improving analogical reasoning because of the power such reasoning has.

Which is the reason I continue to believe in the power of models.  These are frameworks and tools with analytical power that help explain and predict the world.  (Increasingly, I’m realizing the power of visual representations of such models as well.)

I believe that an experimental attitude and a rich suite of models are the tools that will prevail in the future, comprehending the problem and looking for matching models to see whether they can help, when things are new.  This is the stuff of innovation: it’s blue ocean strategy, it’s when you’re moving into new areas or taking on new responsibilities, it’s the cynefin framework itself.

Some things in the learning field are reasonably well understood (if not widely distributed nor well practiced) such as ID and information architecture.  Others are still emergent: certainly for social media, we’re seeing that it takes time and the advantages of some prior experience; mobile is still emergent; and content models are a new area as well.  The point being, I think that developing a capability for flexible problem-solving is a necessity going forward, and it may take that flexible problem-solving to get there!

1 Comment »

  1. […] home to me a problem I’ve had in thinking about the new grounds we’re walking on.  Talk about chaos and the Cynefin framework can make it sound like it’s all too hard.  Things will […]

    Pingback by Visualizing the Change - TogetherLearn — 11 May 2009 @ 4:34 PM

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