Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cynefin and TIMN and I-space and CVF and ...

I've been elbow-deep in examining different frameworks for understanding organizations, including TIMN, CVF, I-Space, and Cynefin. To this point, I've considered Cynefin the odd one out, since it (a) focuses on the environment rather than work organization itself, and (b) consequently doesn't use variants of tribes/clans, institutions/bureaucracies, markets/exchanges, and networks/adhocracies.

But today a stray tweet from Harold Jarche brought my attention to the blogwork he and others have done in relating TIMN and Cynefin. I haven't been able to absorb this work yet, so I'm not ready to endorse it, but it certainly looks interesting:

As so often happens, people are approaching some of the same problems from different directions—and in some cases, via different measures. As Dave Snowden points out elsewhere, one reason that so many of these frameworks are quadriform is that they emerge from 2x2 matrices. (For instance, in its early days, Cynefin was built on two axes: restricted/open and learning/training.) 

And here I want to inject a note of caution. It's easy to start thinking on the basis of these multiple quadriform frameworks that there's simply four forms—to mistake the map for the territory, so to speak. And once you make that assumption, it's tempting to make straightforward equivalences among the frameworks. 

I don't think any of the authors linked above are doing that, but at the beginning of my investigations, that was my impulse. Now I'm taking a second look at them, reining in that impulse and trying to discern the differences among the frameworks. There are some important lessons here, but also pitfalls. 

Finally, let me bring this back to my home discipline, rhetoric. As I argued a few years ago, understanding the complexities of such models can help rhetoricians, I think. And that's because what is persuasive can change in different sociocultural environments—but we often examine persuasion as if it is founded on eternal principles. We expect arguments to be coherent, well-structured in terms of logos, supplemented appropriately by pathos and ethos. And those characteristics do describe a well-formed argument—for an early-institutional society such as ancient Greece. Do they describe a well-formed argument for a TIMN society? For a company working in the Complex environment described in Cynefin? For an adhocracy in I-space? 


Tom Haskins said...

Hi Clay
I'm glad to see you're exploring this.

I just looked up my writings on the intersection of Cynefin and TIMN. The category list on my blog claims there are 50 posts about this, but finds none. A search for Cynefin comes up with lots of them.

Clay Spinuzzi said...

Sounds like I have a lot of reading to do. I think I remember when you started posting on TIMN and Cynefin, but at the time I hadn't read anything about Cynefin and didn't have the bandwidth to get my head around it.

Now, four years later, it's time for me to play catch-up!

David Ronfeldt said...

i too remain up in the air about how (and how well) these various approaches relate to each other, and especially to TIMN. i indicated this in the june 15, 2009 update atop my post comparing various approaches to organizational forms here:


i offered some details behind that update in my comment at tom haskins’ main post about the topic here:


some follow-up reiteration and discussion appeared in two posts at another blog:



i hope to revisit all this someday, and i’m pleased to see your interest deepens (and i also apologize for doing little more here today than just listing urls as pointers). btw, i also have some clarifications to offer, hopefully before long, regarding your prior post about fried’s book on tribes, which makes it seem as though states preceded tribes.

Clay Spinuzzi said...

David, that would be great! I'm very interested in your thoughts vis-a-vis Fried. Other texts such as Kuper's The Invention of Tribal Society take a similar view.

My sense from reading these sources is that they are trying to distinguish pre-state societies (simple, rank, and stratified societies, about which we know little) from tribal societies (which they characterize as simply organized societies that have come into contact with the state). One prime differentiator that Fried suggests is that pre-state societies tend to be much more open, while tribes (in his sense) tend to be quite closed (just as TIMN characterizes them).

That distinction might be important in terms of an historical-developmental account, but perhaps not in terms of analyzing contemporary societies - which is how I want to deploy TIMN. I'm also not sure how far-reaching the distinction is. You've cited Fried (I remember checking the Tribes paper), so I know you've thought about this particular issue more deeply than I. Looking forward to seeing what you make of it.

Thanks also for the links. Now I need to find the time to watch all of them!

David Ronfeldt said...

fwiw, i just posted about my timn view of fried's book. to read, check here:


Clay Spinuzzi said...