Anthro-complexity Approach

Stability actions in the Order System are supported by Classic Science. Agility is necessary to deal with the disruption of the Chaotic system and the uncertainty and unpredictability of the Complex system. 

Mining Differently: an Anthro-complexity approach

The anthro-complexity approach is naturalizing sense-making. It is based on natural science, in particular, the understanding of current cognitive science on how humans make decisions. This allows us to see biases and blind spots. In complex systems we search for explanations in terms of narrative patterns, the key to finding potential disabling system constraints.

It’s common to interchange narrative and story but there is a subtle distinction. A story is an event that happened. A narrative is the way a story is emotionally told. A story does not change but a narrative can just from shuffling the sequence of actions. Example is telling a story backwards. A new order means you have a new narrative of the same story. Narrative turns story into information, or better, into knowledge as perceived by the narrator.

Neuroscientists now know the human brain is hard wired for stories, and narratives are an important element of complexity thinking and presentation.

The matrix above highlights the dangers of pseudo-science and case-based approaches which can confuse correlation with causation. While correlations are valuable insights, inductively scaling beyond the scope of the study as predictors can be misleading. Authors of business and leadership books far too often fall into this trap: “If you do these 3 things that these 5 companies did, you too can become an effective leader!” Book readers should check the size of the sample set observed in case-based studies. Is it large enough to pass the Scientific Method test for repeatability? The 1982 international bestselling book In Search of Excellence has been criticized. So has been Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. The books have also been slammed for the fact that many of the companies profiled have subsequently faltered, possibly more examples of going through a natural business life cycle.

Pattern-discovery experiments are purposely kept small; big change interventions are avoided. This is because all actions in the complex system have unforeseeable consequences and often we don’t know for sure what the result of our actions will be. Furthermore, consequences can happen very quickly. This is the complexity phenomenon known as the Butterfly effect or in social media speak, “going viral”. Smaller interventions are “safe-to-fail” whereas big ones increase the risk of runaway disaster. 

“The one simple truth about any complex system, and the only certainty, [is] that any intervention will produce unintended consequences and the bigger the intervention the more uncertain said consequences.” — Dave Snowden

Narratives are powerful in another way. Using data visualization techniques, we now have the capability to generate a map of the unknown complex environment. This online 2D contour map has a unique feature; if you click on a dot, the story pops up and can be read. This map is akin to an Order system dashboard to gauge progress. The execution question now becomes: What system constraint might we change to get more stories like these and fewer like those?

Narrative landscape. Each dot is a narrative.

The anthro-complexity approach is one of the few hands-on methods that is specifically designed to monitor and explore complex processes from multiple human perspectives. Since 2005, Cognitive Edge and trained practitioners have been designing custom SenseMaker® configurations, for a wide range of industries and applications.