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Cynefin: The Tool That Doesn't "Do" Anything

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Ever since I was a little boy, I've been enamored with tools. I was raised alongside brothers by a mechanically-minded dad. Science, math & engineering classes always attracted me. As a current police officer, I resist my gravitation towards overly-simplistic technical solutions. My home garage has more hand tools than most in my generation. On this website, I write frequently about adaptive tools & smaller toolboxes
What can I say? I just like tools. 
Even though a mechanical, linear analogy doesn't quite fit, I've become more and more interested in mental and emotional "tools." This is especially true of my perspective on mental and thinking models, on which I previously wrote:
"Mental models are etched patterns and worldview (often subconscious) that represent how various parts of reality connect, interact, relate, or work together. They are build through experience, exposure, faith, cognitive heuristics, storytelling, schemata, and imagery. We …

Empty Capacity

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Whether in the context of hospital beds, individual mental processing bandwidth, or organizational learning...everywhere I turn this week, somebody is talking about capacity

Here are some thoughts, rather unstructured, about capacity and adaptability. 

As opposed to some hijacked corporate or academic version, let's start with a general definition:


NOTE: I'm not super interested in entertaining differences in capacity versus capabilities. I'll leave those circular debates up to you guys! 

My wife, an emergency/trauma nurse, keeps telling me of all the vacant floors in her hospital and in the hospitals of her healthcare friends.  With the restrictions on elective and non-essential surgeries, the demand placed on hospital rooms has drastically declined. (Without patients to be cared for, floor nurses are being furloughed at unbelievable rates.) Capacity has not changed -- there are still the same number of hospital beds. However, the availability of such as significantly open…

The Dangerous Gap Before Deadly Force

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Videos of physical struggles between police and citizens, like that posted by @FreeRangeCritic this week of Chicago Police resorting to shooting a man in the subway, get my mind returning to tough questions. (If you have been in a cave the last few days, I suggest watching the video before reading on...)

As a police officer myself, I'm especially troubled, frustrated, and bothered by videos where the officers appear to have lost control, appear to be overpowered, appear to be ineffective, or appear to be otherwise unreasonably vulnerable to injury or worse. 

As a free citizen, I'm equally troubled, frustrated, and bothered by videos where the officers appear to have overreacted, appear indecisive, appear to have made bad decisions, or appear to use excessive force. 

This is one (1) such video that holds several of those aspects at once. 

I've spent a bulk of my time as a police officer in training roles, where a few dozen days (or more) per year are designated for me helping p…

Clustering Clusters

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My kids are of the jiggle puzzle age. Huge puzzles. Miniature puzzles. Easy puzzles. Near-impossible puzzles. We've got got boxes and ziplock baggies full of puzzles...some even have all the pieces!

I enjoy watching their different strategies. Separate out all the edges. Hunt for the corners. Sort by color...like the blue sky...the red bricks...the purple flower.

Sometimes my kids even agree to work on a single puzzle together!

Last week, I watched as two (2) of my kids struggled together with one (1) such puzzle. They had each proudly assembled sizable chunks of pieces into discernible sections of the image. They were each individually hunting for more pieces to connect to their clusters...

What they hadn't yet realized was that each of their chunks were ready to be connected to each other.

What I saw next was both excitement and selfishness. Excited to see that they, together, were closer to completing the mission. Selfish in that they had each been working separately on th…

Situational Awareness: Passive or Active?

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Are you positioning yourself to see all there is to see, as quickly as it can be seen? 

When I talk with most folks about Situational Awareness, they mention phrases like:
being aware of your surroundings; know what's happening around you; observing things that stick out. These behaviors or characteristics aren't wrong. However, they do bring out a certain flavor of passivity. It's as if the person is passively monitoring their environment as a receptor of stimuli. It's, in a way, a defensive way of opening oneself up to receive information, whenever that information decides to reveal itself. In short, information comes to you.

What if we looked at a different posture of situational awareness? 

What if we became more active in our pursuit of information? 

What if we went on the offense to hunt out information? 

What if we pulled information early, as opposed to waiting for it to be pushed to us? 

What if we purposely increased the channels, scans, alerts, sensors, triggers t…

How to Grow Decisiveness in Your Team

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People who are reluctant to made decisions have been conditioned to behave that way.

If you want these folks to make decisions, you'll have to overcome their ingrained fears & incentives.

There are no shortcuts. However, I'd like to share a few things that have worked in growing decisiveness in teams of which I've been a member. 

1. Discuss the relationship between available/perceived discretionary time & accuracy/reasonableness of the decision. These are two (2) different characteristics of a decision. Time relates to urgency. Basically, how much time do we have to consider the situation and options? Accuracy relates to how correct, while acknowledging that few options are as objective as answers to a math test.

2. Reward decisiveness, even potentially more than the quality of the decision. This is especially true if the situation is complicated, novel, complex, dynamic, or uncertain. Also, criticize or penalize (tactfully, of course) indecision. Make being wrong less…

Weekend Building Blocks: The Illinois Model's Most Read of 2019

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There's no value in collecting blocks unless you're connecting them to build something awesome! This special year-end Weekend Building Blocks focuses on 2019's most viewed blog posts from this The Illinois Model website. Of the forty (40) posts that I wrote and published in the past year, here are the most visited:
(How) Can Cynefin Help the Police Criminal Intelligence Community?Teams Versus GroupsPresentation Hack: Death by BikabloClassically-Trained Firearms Instructors & 21st Century Learning PrinciplesHot Wash Debrief: OODA + Cynefin  I continue to be amazed at which posts are flat duds...and which get wide sharing, commentary, and interaction. My predictions are wildly off. 
I suspected the #5 piece on the OODA + Cynefin workshop might be the top post; it wasn't. I would NOT have guessed that any of the top four (4) would be among the top five (5). 
Those above are statistics limited to posts that I wrote in 2019. What was read most in 2019? It was actually a…

The Opposite of Strategy

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I'm fascinated by the intentional practice of examining the opposites of things. It's as if I can get a better understanding of a theory, concept, idea, or principle when I seek something else that is in direct competition with or in tension with the original term I was thinking about. 
To think about light, think about darkness.To think about decentralization, think about centralization. To think about micro-management, think about laissez-faire.To think about generalist, think about specialism. To think about God, think about the devil.You get the picture. There are plenty of these sorts of dichotomous concepts - especially to those of us who study complexity and adaptability. 

So with that, the concept of strategy has been on my mind recently. Without turning this into a post about strategy itself, I'll go easy on my definition or explanation of it.

To me, strategy is a vital link between goals and tactics. Strategy is more conceptual (and more steadfast) than tactics.

I…

Presentation Hack: Moderating & Participating in Panels

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Panel presentations can be among the most interesting sessions for attendees, yet the most stressful to coordinate for organizers.
Aside from having watched/attended quite a few panel presentations, I have some experience at both the moderatorand the panelist roles (<-- links to recent panels). Here are some hacks I've picked up on:
ROLES

As a moderator, your role is to... provide or coordinate an introduction of each panelist;openly state any agenda, intent, or purpose of the assembled panel; act as glue - fill in gaps, connect panelists, & relate ideas;call on the introverted, quiet panelists;keep the strong personality panelists from taking over;coordinate transitions between panelists & topics; highlight similarities & differences among panelists' content; temper conflict, yet draw out competing perspectives;make sure no panelist is seen as a winner or loser; solicit audience questions & direct to appropriate panelists; provide a conclusion to the session.A…