Complexity - it's complicated, chaotic, but obvious

Crushed cansOne of the most important things I have learned when I did my MSc in KM was the Cynefin Framwork (It's pronounced "knevin", by the way, like Kevin with an "n" stuck in it) developed by David Snowden and first presented in an HBR article. In it's simplest form, it stated that a system can be in one of 5 domains: Obvious (previously called simple), Complicated, Complex, Chaotic, or Disordered. Identifying which domain a system or situation is located can help to understand how to deal with that system. Obvious systems have a predictable effect of a give cause. Complicated systems have a longer chain, or even a black box bteween the cause and effect. For Complex system, however, the effect may be determined after it has occurred and thus is not predictable. Chaotic systems are where the effects cannot be linked to a specific cause. The final domain, which is often overlooked, is Disorder, where one cannot determine which domain a system is in.

Obvious and Complicated systems are reasonable easy to deal with. They have predictable outcome and so we can set up rules to handle them, Complex systems need to be tested to see what works first. Chaotic systems need to be reacted to. So high school maths has rules (Obvious); high school English has . . . guidelines (Complicated); with high school students, you need to find out what they are like before you can guide them in the right direction (Complex); and if there is a fire in the high school, you fall back on the training you got during fire drills to handle the situation as it occurs (Chaotic).

Herein lies the problem, most people like simple solutions. So they tend to react with Obvious and Complicated solutions to problems that are Complex. The Greek debt crisis and the Syrian refugee situation to name a few. Donald Trump (dare I mention his name) is king of the oversimplication - there is a percieved problem with Mexican immigrants (highly Complex), but his solution is to Simply build a wall! But he is not the only one, many CFOs, because they deal with the Complicated issue of finance (which has rigid rules and regulations), think they can use the same kind of solutions to run the Complex system that is a company, often to the detriment of the company! So to fully find a way to deal with a situation, determine whether it is Obvious, Complicated, Complex or Chaotic, and take action accordingly.