Simple? Complicated? Complex? Or already chaotic?

Can the Cynefin model help in matters of the heart?

Quite a while ago, the so-called Cynefin model (from the Welsh word meaning “habitat”) achieved quite a bit of notoriety. It is a typology of a system or project that provides a clue as to what kind of explanations and/or solutions apply or might be helpful in uncertain contexts.

The model is divided into four categories or contexts: simple, chaotic, complex and complicated.

Now from time to time I too use one of those platforms where you can tell other people something (about yourself). On this particular platform I was told someone I knew had updated his or her relationship status to “complicated”.

Cynefin contends that complicated systems – like simple ones – are ordered, but the cause and effect relationships between the individual elements are so diverse and numerous that you need special expertise to investigate and understand them. And the recommended action is: “observe – analyse – react”.

So I advised the person concerned to monitor his or her partner, analyse the photos taken for usable evidence and – depending on the results of the analysis – ask for forgiveness or choose a theatrical exit in front of as many people as possible.

As I could imagine that the person concerned would not distinguish between complex and complicated, I suggested “try – observe – react” to be on the safe side. So first of all express your suspicion, see what happens, in case of ambiguity reiterate your suspicions. And repeat until clarity prevails, then either plea for forgiveness or execute the theatrical departure.

My suggestions evoked confusion, which according to the model means that it is unclear what kind of system is present. In this case the model says decisions are typically made based solely on existing experience, without consideration of the actual situation – “act – observe – react”. So first throw the guy out, then see if it was justified, and then, as needed, plea for forgiveness or exit theatrically.

For the sake of completeness it should be mentioned that in simple systems elements are ordered and connected with immediately recognisable cause and effect relationships. The following is recommended: “observe – categorise – react.” So: I’ve been getting less attention lately, the guy probably has someone on the side, so I’ll throw him out.

The model works!

Deutscher Originaltext: RGE
Englische Übersetzung: BCO

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