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Entries in management (3)


How to enhance innovation by managing complexity using the Cynefin Framework

Executives usually try to create ordered domains that are characterized by stability and clear cause-and-effect relationships. These simple contexts require straightforward management: assess the facts of the situation, categorize them, and then base your response on what you know, with established practice.

Most innovation challenges however, are in complex contexts, where straightforward management approaches do not properly fit. Wise executives tailor their behavior and decisions to fit the complexity of the circumstances they face.

The Cynefin framework helps you determine complex problems and situations. By matching your management approach to the context, you will be able to better facilitate innovation in your organization. Innovation requires switching from a fail-safe mindset to one based on safe-fail experimentation.

The Cynefin framework was originally developed in 1999 in the context of knowledge management and organizational strategy by Dave Snowden.

Main characteristics of a complex context:
  • Unpredictability
  • No right answers; emergent instructive patterns
  • Unknown unknowns
  • Many competing ideas
  • A need for creative and innovative approaches
Your job in a complex context:
  • Probe, sense, respond (see video for details)
  • Create environments and experiments that allow patterns to emerge
  • Increase levels of interaction and communication
  • Use methods that can help generate ideas:
    - Open up discussion (through workshops and large group sessions);
    - set barriers;
    - stimulate attractors;
    - encourage disagreement and diversity;
    - manage starting conditions and monitor for emergence
The original article on the Cynefin Framework is available on Harvard Business Review.

Andrea Ragnetti (ex-Philips CEO) about Apple’s Competitive Advantage

Andrea Ragnetti observed Apple’s behavior and choices from a privileged point of view, as Chief Executive Officer of the Consumer Lifestyle sector and Member of the Board of Management of Philips. Ragnetti left Philips last year.

On his personal website he explains how Apple does not rely on the genius and inspiration of Steve Jobs only. He shares his thoughts on the reasons why Apple has an almost unbeatable competitive advantage that is intertwined with its organizational choices and management style and embedded in its practices:
  1. Apple says “no” much more than “yes.”
  2. Apple is organized differently from all other competitors.
  3. Apple has an approach to product launches that is more similar to Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies than to the world of Consumer Electronics.
  4. Apple is relatively uninterested in competition.
  5. Apple values the whole consumer experience more than the actual technical performance.
  6. Apple has a healthy, rather distant relationship with retailers.
  7. Apple value people and rewards them handsomely.
Read more on Ragnetti's website:

Gary Hamel: Reinventing the Technology of Human Accomplishment

Great inspirational video on innovation. Gary Hamel, management thinker and author, explains why it is time to radically rethink how we mobilize people and organize resources to productive ends. I especially like "The web is the global operating system for innovation" and "The values of the web have to become the values of our organization". Watch this 15-minute video with very cool and perfectly synchronized background graphics.