Friday morning notes – Ueli Scheuermeier

October 8, 2006

CP2-Meeting Florence, 6th. Oct 2006

A: Shawn takes us through „two-stage emergence“.

A fast-track real exercise on elliciting archetypes. What Shawn did with us:

1. Define the topic / question / setting:

(For practicing we picked „How to deal with difficult people in a COP“)

2. Everybody tells short stories about „difficult people“.

3. After hearing about those stories, make a list of typical issues that crop up, „types“ of people in a COP that emerge from the stories.

4. Spread them out on stickers on a wall.

5. Formulate positive and negative attributes to those „types“, add them to these types (stickers to the types).

6. Take out the types and randomize the attributes all over the wall.

7. Group the attributes along similarities.

8. Create a name for each group, preferably some cartoon-figure or historical figure, or literary figure…. à „archetypes“.


Careful about archetypes and not stereotypes.

How useful is this? Actually only useful when doing parallel effort on themes and values (on other walls in the same room). Shawn thinks the work on themes and values can directly lead the group to work on reflecting on what to do, whereas archetypes are often sidelined.

How does it help to work with people „who need a solution“, ie. it does not give us an immediate response on how to deal with difficult people in COPs.

Long discussion on concrete problem-solving paradigm (the expectation of most newbies dealing with COPs: „how do you do this“) versus investigating and dealing with complexities. Watch out: There is not a dichotomy here, it’s a continuum. Got to meet people where they are.

Cynefin – Framework (

4 types of decision-making settings:

  1. Known

Causes and effects are well known. Each time you need to get an effect, everybody knows what causes it and can act accordingly to achieve the intended effect.

Sense -> Categorize -> Respond

  1. Knowable

Cause and effect are known. But not everybody knows about it. You need an expert to tell you what to do to reach an intended effect.

Sense -> Analyse (by an expert) -> Respond (upon recommendation by an expert)

1 and 2 are the „ordered world“. The following 3 and 4 are the messy world.

  1. Complex

Cause and effect cannot be directly related. Too many variables interact with a particular effect. What works and what doesn’t depends very much on the situation, the setting, etc. etc. Experts are not much help here. Best way to figure stuff is to

Probe -> Sense what happens, how the systems reacts, discover patterns of what usually happens -> design the most useful settings that usually lead to an intended effect.

–> „Culture“, Leadership, Learning, Innovation.

–> „Trust“ is an important aspect of working in complex environments. Trustbuilding through track-record of getting things done together.

==> This is where COPs come into their own!!

  1. Chaotic

Nothing is predictable. No way of knowing why some things work and others don’t. Giuliani in the first hours after 9/11: Just did what came to mind, no system in it. What worked you pushed, what didn’t you stopped doing.

=> The „Just Do It“ paradigm: Seems to push chaotic stuff into complex stuff (ie. 4 to 3). However, JDI only makes sense if you track how what you do works out -> get some idea what works and what doesn’t -> discover patterns => you’re in the complex setting and beginning to cope.


3 Responses to “Friday morning notes – Ueli Scheuermeier”

  1. barb Says:

    Thanks! Having this information helped explain some of the flikr pictures. Those were great, too.

  2. Dave Snowden Says:

    Shawn is one of the experienced hands in the use of Congitive Edge techniques and its nice to see the methods being picked up and accurately transmitted (the best compliment you can pay a teacher is that his pupils can explain what he taught on one itteration).

    We open source the methods so the web site Shawn gave you will give the full working documents etc. There is also an article “Comple Acts of Knowing” which applies the Cynefin framework to Communities of Practice.

  3. smithjd Says:

    Good point, Dave,

    One thing that gave Shawn a lot of credibility in my mind (he was the teacher in this case, although we didn’t EXPLAIN what he presented t anyone) was that we built on the methods that he presented and applied them in a very specific situation at the CIRN conference on Tuesday to the needs and purposes of that situation. Althugh we DID have a bit of a bumpy ride, it worked very well.

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