On Collecting My Thoughts

I’m interested in the metaphors we use to describe being in uncertainty and I think you should be too. Have you ever noticed how we describe, in the vernacular, our actions when facing uncertainty. I’m exploring these stories because I think, more than we are actively aware, humans engage uncertainty, rather effectively, quite regularly. It is only when we stop and try to think about how we actually grapple with uncertainty that we seem to become paralyzed by an inability to remember… “How did I figure out what to do when I didn’t know what to do?” Often when I ask people to describe the last time they didn’t know what to do, they’ll admit to facing uncertainty, but have a difficult time describing specific experiences of how they decided to take action while facing uncertainty.

So, I collect these clues, in the hopes that I can use them to remind people of what is that uncertainty feels like, and bring them back to a specific moment of uncertainty.

One of the clues I’ve noticed is the phrase “Collect your thoughts.” It took me ages to understand how self-explanatory this phrase is. I always assumed that there was something more to “Collecting your thoughts” than, observing what I was thinking and selecting specific thoughts I found interesting for further consideration.

Think of the last time you heard the phrase, or said it aloud… “I need a moment to collect my thoughts” (Tell me a story about it in the comments!). For me, when I reflect on times I have heard or said “collect my thoughts”, those were times when the world around me was a bit out of control. The phrase echoes a sense of “needing time to think.”

I remember talking to a friend on September 11th, whose father may or may not have been in the towers, we couldn’t know, the phones didn’t work. “I need a moment to collect my thoughts” she said, hands on her head looking down at the ground.

Wiktionary’s definition of the phrase seems to echo these ideas:

To become mentally composed, especially after being distressed, surprised, or disoriented; to become calm or organized in one’s emotional state or thinking, as in preparation for a conversation, speech, decision, etc.

These moments of distress, surprise and disorientation are particularly difficult to dispassionately observe. Humans in these situations seem to become so deeply involved in reacting when disoriented, the fight or flight mind taking over, that they have a hard time being reflective about the experience. This short circuiting of dispassionate observation is unfortunate (unless you are facing a tiger) because we also have a hard time disambiguating life threatening uncertainty… and normal everyday stressful uncertainty.

The problems with this lack of reflection in critical moments are seen in the definition as well. We “collect our thoughts” in preparation for conversation, speech and critically decision-making. Surely we need to be most aware of our critical thinking while making stressful decisions. And yet so often we can’t remember how it is that we made these decisions.

Now that we have noticed, we might find some value in trying to think clearly about how one might collect thoughts, so we are able to more deliberate in future moments of uncertainty.

To begin with, what is collecting? Collecting is a process, an activity, by which we modify a collection. As we collect we change the quality of the collection itself… it may grow, or maybe we have to make space by removing older objects. The act of collecting is the act of changing what we have collected.

Collections can be personally, professionally, or socially important. We also say that abstract sets of similar types are collections, such as Arrays in software engineering.

One way we collect is to decide to preserve a class of things based on a subjective set of qualities. We don’t collect any sea shell, we collect those worth preserving. We add those that we deem worthy of preserving to a collection or set of sea shells, leaving those we decide are not collectible behind. In this way collecting could be seen as a form of applying a set of values towards a set of options in order to select those options worth keeping.

Then there is collecting of collections that have value beyond personal judgements. The collection of things that are considered by a group to be more valuable as “completed” collections. Baseball cards, stamps and butterflies. The completed set seems to talk about the order that could be found in the world. That there are categories and places for each things, a great shared taxonomy.

Collecting can also be thought of as the act of not selecting but simply capturing each possible instance of a certain set. There are for example those who hoard their thoughts. Robert Shields, for instance, left at his death in 2007 a diary of 37.5 million words. He spent four hours each day, collecting his thoughts and observations of his bowel movements, for each five minutes period of his days.


Obsessive collecting can also point in another way… towards the edges of a set, an attempt to find the point at which a concept diffuses into simple noise. Here one might think of Claes Oldenburg’s Ray Gun Wing, with its collection of ray guns, as well as objects and images that share a resemblance to ray guns, in whole or simply in profile. An invitation by the artist to explore the form of a Ray Gun, and what we might think of as form and belonging.


Collecting can also be seen as a kind of clearing the away or gathering together, after a fragmenting, fracturing or scattering of something once whole. Clearing away the shards and scattered pieces of a broken glass after accidentally dropping it on a hard surface.

Related but qualitatively different would be the collecting of pieces to put them back in order. There is no hope for reassembling a broken glass, but there are things we need to collect to simply begin the process of repair. Picking up pieces of a valuable vase that we’ll try to glue back together, or the pieces of a broken heart. This is a collecting with the intent of returning the pieces together.

We also need to understand, what are the thoughts that we are collecting in moments of uncertainty. Observed, they are not vague and unformed, but often more fragmentary and contradictory. The confusion of uncertainty comes less from a fog of impalpable nebulosity, and more in the form of a buzzing swirl of specific thoughts. Observed carefully uncertainty often feels like an overwhelming set of options, what is lacking isn’t the structure of the thoughts or a limited number of options, but a structure for sorting them. Uncertainty is in the end an inability to decide clearly what it is we value and wish to keep and what it is we don’t need to take with us now, and choose to leave to be rediscovered by another day or person.

In this way, collecting our thoughts isn’t just about each thought that is selected. It is co-evolutionary, each thought modifying, amplifying or dampening those we have previously selected, changing not just the thoughts themselves but the quality of the collection in whole.

Collecting our thoughts then maybe about creating a dynamic balance, not a just goal state or a static defensible position. Collecting out thoughts is then a transitional strategy for moving through uncertainty with a sense of centeredness. A way of moving from uncertainty toward clarity and order, even if we find that clarity temporal or transitory.

Here to we can observe that this observing of thoughts to center ourselves is different than the centering of Mindful Meditation. In meditation we observe our thoughts in attempt to release them, to acknowledge our human nature and to simply be. This being, being present and in the moment, it quite different than what we wish to achieve when we collect our thoughts. In collecting our thoughts we are concerned not only with being, but with becoming. We collect our thoughts to move forward and to act.

We collect our thoughts to rebalance and find our way by reaffirming decisions based on new information and to evaluate new ideas and options. We collect our thoughts to consider anew based on a new balance.

I start most of my writing projects because I don’t know about something.

-Gerald M. Weinberg

Take for instance Robert Frank, collecting images for The Americans. When we collect images from an uncertain world, we collect without knowing the final form a collection will take. We don’t enter the world with a check list of images to make, but with the belief that the images we make will come to make sense. Each successful image begins to hint at other images we may need to watch for in the world and so the photographer and the collection of photographs interchange desire and agency.

One way we can use these ideas is to generalize the practice of collecting our thoughts in extreme uncertainty, to less critical forms of trying to make sense of our world. Almost certainly we are broadly confronted with uncertainty as an inherent part of the human condition, even if we have difficulty recognizing it.

As a first step, we could recognize some of the ways in which we experience uncertainty. The feeling of uncertainty is often a feeling of having too many thoughts or options, being unable to decide, or lacking a structure to make a confident decision. In this way many options appear equally valid and yet we feel as though we must choose to eliminate some. Another way in which we experience uncertainty is when something we observe doesn’t fit our categories or models, should we modify our understanding or the idea itself? Finally, we can observe that uncertainty and the embrace of the liberation of “not knowing in advance” is the heart of creative endeavors… we can observe that when we feel creative and in “flow” we are fully engaged in acting in the world.

There are some practices that I have observed for directly engaging in collecting your thoughts… you may find them rewarding.

Take Jerry Weinberg’s lovely idea of collecting our thoughts like we collect field stones. We observe the quality of our ideas, ones that we particularly enjoy and have a powerful emotional reaction to. We pile them together so that in the future as we wish to make stone walls, we simply need to fit together a selection of the field stones we have found. In this way collecting our thoughts in not about a current final ordering, it is a collecting for future ordering. A collecting as sorting… Jerry describes these practices in detail in his book “The Field Stone Method

Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry also suggest collecting thoughts for another purpose. Collecting and externalizing thoughts allows room in our minds to think. Like clearing away space, or removing stones from a field, collecting our thoughts lowers our existential overhead. This process of collecting and externalizing thoughts has been useful to many people for rebalancing their lives and making decisions about how to move forward. Jim and Toni describe their ideas in detail in: Personal Kanban


We’d Like to Collect Your Thoughts…

These thought were inspired by my attempts to think about micro narratives and journaling as a sense making activity. If you would like to learn more feel free to ask me.

If you would like to participate in a sense making research project based in micro narrative journaling, The Lean System Society (and I) would appreciate your contributions to our research project… You can find out more http://us.sensemaker-suite.com/Collector/collector.gsp?projectID=LSSReactor2013&language=en#Collector

By contributing you can help us complete some research into the hidden and underlying realities of systems work. Most individuals have a myriad of good and bad stories about working with and inside systems. You can help the LSS conduct this important and unprecedented research by simply sharing those stories.

Please contribute you stories here: http://us.sensemaker-suite.com/Collector/collector.gsp?projectID=LSSReactor2013&language=en#Collector

Your stories will be used in sense-making exercises at the LSS’s Reactor 2013 conference. If you contribute stories to the research project you will be able to request a summary report of the results.

Because the sense-making exercises leverage diverse and divergent view points to better understand the nature of system’s work, the quality of the research will be based on 2 quantities; The quantity of unique view points (different individuals) and the quantity of stories contributed.

You can do two things to go above and beyond helping us with this project…

1) Use the sensemaker site as an active journaling system for the next 5 days. Spend 10 minutes at the end of the day collecting your thoughts and reflecting on your experiences here: http://us.sensemaker-suite.com/Collector/collector.gsp?projectID=LSSReactor2013&language=en#Collector

If you use a kanban system like I do, I find processing the tickets in my kanban “done” column to be a nice mediative practice. It allows me to clarify what I have done, what I am capable of, and the ways in which I observe myself improving.

2) Please consider sharing this post… or write an email in your own words, to other individuals you think may enjoy the exercise of journalling and may like to contribute to the research. Or you might consider writing about your experience using the system on your blog or twitter and providing a link back to the system.

I’d like to personally thank you for contributing if you choose to do so. I know that each of you have a useful contribution to make, Thank you.

The LSS is dedicated to improving the economic and sociological outcomes of the world’s systems. You can find out more at the LSS website here: http://leansystemssociety.org/

A Cynefin Delegation Decision Framework

I’ve had people ask me, how do I make the Cynefin Framework useful? How do I apply it? I am going to walk through one way I use the framework, I’m not going to spend much time explaining technical terms here. 

To be clear this is a personal evolving model, it may or may not work for other people in other companies.

As a CTO I am required to manage a volume of problems presented to me.  As an executive my time is often too fragmented by non-negotiable commitments. I like to personally lead the efforts to resolve problems, however often times I am unable to . When this occurs I need to be able to delegate the resolution of the problem effectively. This post will show my framework for delegating work. 

Order or Un-Order

Let me start by the “triage” level of problem solving. First things first, Ordered or UnOrdered? 

Order and Un-Order look to the future in different ways. Order views the world in a traditional mechanistic, cause and effect way, making plans works. Un-Order on the other hand assumes that the future is unpredictable, cause and effect doesn’t hold, and previously observed patterns may not hold. Determining order vs un-order can quickly give me a sense of the potential responses.



  • Defined outcome. 
  • Inspection reveals quality of work.
  • Exploitation 


  • Complete an Invoice
  • Create HTML for an approved Design
  • Determine why a server isn’t running correctly
  • Load Test a system
  • Implement a intricate financial algorithm



  • Definable desirable traits / Multiple possible good results
  • Novel domains or concepts
  • Inspection reveals “fitness” for use.
  • Exploration


  • Create a new product
  • Find a new market
  • Create a valuable social presence
  • Train employees

If I have no more time to investigate the problem further, I’ll treat anything that falls in the Ordered side as Complicated and anything that falls in the un-ordered side as Chaotic.

Delegating and Managing the Problem



  • I know the Answer
  • Most people should be able to know the answer 
  • I can inspect and determine the quality of the work at any point. 


  • Delegate resolution to individual or team with appropriate knowledge of process
  • Investigate why Simple problem surfaced to Executive level
  • Determine if enough individuals are trained in appropriate solution



  • I know someone has a solution
  • I may not personally understand how to complete the detailed solution
  • I can inspect the results of the work and validate that it meets my needs
  • I may not be able to inspect the intermediate results to validate fitness


  • Assemble group of Experts with previous experience solving simular issues.
  • Define clear unambiguous resolution state
  • Initiate Discussion about possible solutions to resolve problem
  • Focus experts on resolution state not details
  • Assign an expert to own “goodest”/satisficing suggested solution
  • Frequent follow up with expert until problem is resolved



  • I know a group of people who would be interested in this problem
  • I have multiple possible good results in mind
  • I can’t define how I would validate the results ahead of time


  • Work with a group of teams to describe problem
  • Attempt to inspire a team to self engage the problem
  • Delegate to team that creates the most coherent explanation of forward movement
  • Frequent follow up to determine response remains coherent
  • Ensure appropriate access to new information and resources
  • Work with team to begin to explain novel solution to internal resources


  • I know individuals who would be interested in this problem
  • I’m unsure how to describe the problem or the solution clearly

  • Assemble a heterogeneous group of individuals with divergent skill-sets, view points and responsibilities
  • Present problem
  • Work to create a network of individuals with a shared vocabulary to minimally describe problem
  • Define multiple possible experiments to “find our way”
  • Delegate experiments to teams (ideally not from this group of individuals)
  • Periodically reform network to evaluate results and new suggestions (ritual dissent)
This assumes a chaotic problem that doesn’t require IMMEDIATE response. Emergencies should be immediately delegated or handled personally by attempting to find the “closest best practice” to temporarily stabilize the problem.


You may be thinking, what about the Disordered domain. My disordered heuristic is that I don’t know anyone who would know anything about the problem and I need to gather more information.

The first thing I do when I find myself unable to figure out which domain a problem is in is to seek peer advice. Peers include the other executives and personal contacts that can potentially add enough information to the problem to clarify it for me. 

If the problem remains disordered I treat it as chaotic, with an expectation that it will resolve itself into one of the domains quickly. The important difference I think is a heightened awareness of the likelihood of a rapid potentially disruptive transition.

The Management Interaction Gap

this model never makes me particularly popular with other managers or executives… 

Any idiot can face a crisis. It’s day to day living that wears you out.
-Anton Chekhov

There are many explanations of what is “wrong” with management these days… many of them may be right, but I think my model of the problem has a pretty good chance of explaining a huge amount of waste (and general unhappiness) in today’s businesses. I’d like to be clear up front, this post is less intended to bash on management than it is intended to illuminate the logic behind the management decision process, a description from the pointy haired side of the house.

The Management Interaction Gap Model

Let’s start with some definitions:
The Management Interaction Gap
The period of time during which management trusts the team to complete a task or set of tasks, which the team has committed to.
Zone of Planning
The period of time where management attempts to explain an envisioned Ideal Future state. Management will be intimately involved creating a plan that explains the steps required to achieve the Ideal Future State
Zone of Surprise
Management starts hearing “bad things” comes to investigate… You are all IDIOTS. Clearly this isn’t what I asked for. Team meanwhile has been working on system and understands WHY it is the way it is… Manager doesn’t want to hear it.
Ideal Future State
Usually the Manager BELIEVES he understands what he wants done. If you actually ASK the manager they will have a harder time explaining it.
Interval of Expectation
Amount of time between the Official Start of the Project and the expected delivery of the Ideal Future State.

Let Me Tell You A Story

This story is very much a draft… it is too snarky and management bashing, which is how it came out of my head. I plan to rewrite it to better reflect a manager’s point of view

In the beginning of my projects there is a Vision. I BELIEVE I understand what needs to be done (If you actually ASK me right now I would have a harder time explaining the details). I have produced a Power Point deck or some form of a Vision Statement. This document is a rough outline, a vision, of what should be built based on rigorous analysis of the market place, projections, and assertions about the how the future is going to be! 

I know that projects that are unclear or have any ambiguity, either get hijacked OR never get approved so it is important that the Ideal Future State be CLEAR and UNAMBIGUOUS. I have presented the vision statement to my peers to secure funding and resources.

Once I gained the approval of his peers and therefor committed to them to achieve the Ideal Future State, it is off to the Zone of Planning. This is what I am GOOD at… PLANNING. Planning IS Management. Always pay A LOT of attention during the Zone of Planning… because I KNOW, based on previous experience, that the team is going to bollocks up the whole project eventually. This time though, I’m going to make sure the plan is more detailed, this time the team will understand. 

Towards the end of the planning phase the my attention starts to drop precipitously. I am actually starting to trust the team, they seem to understand the vision and are helping to define a plan. After weeks of repeating the same things over and over in meetings, they appear to be able to parrot back the appropriate responses. Now it is time to ask the team to make a ritualized commitment to achieve the Ideal Future state… I love this moment of commitment! Finally I’ve clearly explained the Vision and the Plan, so clearly that the awesome team I’ve assembled, understands. It is so good to be understood.

Now, like everyone else I can only do so many things at once, fortunately I am an expert multi-tasker. Teams and individuals need to manage WIP, managers and companies need to PRODUCE as much as possible. So… during The Management Interaction Gap, I am off helping the next team commit to another related ideal future. Usually that plan and my previous plan… are going to have dependencies.

Towards the end of the project, I start hearing “bad things.” Time to investigate…

You are all IDIOTS.

Clearly this isn’t what I asked for! 

The larger the Interval of Expectation, the more trust I put in the team and the louder yelling is going to be. Now, I only have 15% of the time and budget left and I have to get this project back on the rails. Things are going to have to change, and I am going to have to be HEAVILY involved if this project is going to be saved. The team can earn the trust back, by following instructions NOW, because trust is based on the ability to follow the plan, which clearly the team HAS NOT BEEN DOING.

Fire fighting isn’t fun, but someone has to do it. Thank god I have a ton of experience saving teams from failure.

The team of course has been working on system and understands WHY it is the way it is, they’ve discovered that there were details about the vision that did not make sense.

To tell you the truth I don’t want to hear it, I have got a commitment to my peers and the teams has committed to me to fulfill the plan we defined together. All that hard work planning, it can’t go to waste…


The MIG is a failure state that is seen repeatedly in situations where teams are left to achieve an Ideal Future state, even self organizing teams.

The Management Interaction Gap (The MIG) is scale invariant.

Agile, which encourages managers to trust their teams to self organize, may exacerbate the amount of surprise teams produce for their managers. Managers may confuse trust, self-organization and self-management, leading to an insufficient amount of effective leadership.


Building a tree house and hanging a “No Managers Sign” is not a reasonable reaction to the real problem of micromanagement. The Management Interaction Gap is NOT an invitation to engage in the micromanagement of HOW to do work. It is however a call for management and teams to engage each other more authentically. Management by more consistant attention and teams by an active attempt to be more transparent. Kanban is my preferred route to establishing both these goals.

This all need more exploration that I (or you dear reader) have time for right now… but some specific thoughts in conclusion.

For Ordered Work

Even when appropriate Ideal Futures can done better.

If what you are trying to achieve is predictably inspect-able, if you can explicitly define the qualities of the system that you will value in the future, then The Management Interaction Gap isn’t actually that bad. You may benefit from “going to the gemba” to help make the process more efficient or helping teams become more effective at producing the values you have defined. You may also benefit from inspecting the progress of production more frequently to ensure that the value you expect is being produced. Projects such as, implementing a widely used specifications, building a car and developing film all fall in this area.

When executing processes that repeat, avoid the Banana Principle, know when to stop. The weak signals in Ordered work ARE NOT in the complex domain, weak signals are in the SIMPLE domain. As a manager, carefully observe and test work processes that haven’t changed in awhile. Cautious inspection of highly proscriptive work to ensure that the environment hasn’t changed is critical. When designing training, make sure, as much as possible, to embed information about the appropriate context for the processes. Students will benefit greatly from instruction indicating how to determine processes have entered failure states. Attempt to create a “stop the line” mechanism that allows those closest to the process/environment interaction to notify managers of a mismatch between expectations and reality.

For Un-ordered Work

Often we find ourselves unable to define the values we wish a system to have in relation to an uncertain future. In these cases, producing a clear and unambiguous ideal future is illogical. In these cases the Management Gap is very dangerous. Managers in these cases need to avoid grand visions statements and favor distributed social narrative generation and execute small safe-fail experiments. Close the management gap by; shortening cycle times and increasing transparency.

When executing a safe-to-fail experiment understand when the “story” is becoming dis-coherent. This doesn’t mean that the project is failing, but it is important to re-establish a new coherence based on the new information available. This is where surprises come from, teams working on their own find new information and adjust their narratives to match, managers unaware of the new information AND the gradual change in narrative, are surprised that the story has changed. Of course there is a worse version of the story… one where teams have been so brow beaten that they’ll continue working on dis-coherent work that everyone knows won’t work. Not only is this demoralizing and foolish from a profit perspective, it is impossible to measure progress against a dis-coherent goal.

You know that saying about learning from mistakes? The Management Interaction Gap is a model of a failure state for a management style I once used…

Photography thru the Cynefin Lens

this is one of my more personal pieces, I am actually a little nervous about pressing publish… oh well what’s the worst that can happen… enjoy

Jabe 8X10 Albany NY 1996

That is me sitting next to the 2nd largest camera I own. The really big one is a 11×14 Deardorf, it takes two people just to move that one. The camera in the picture is an 8×10 Deardorf, it makes negatives the size of a 8×10 inch sheet of paper. Shooting images with a camera this large (and heavy) takes a unique way of seeing, requiring you to flip the image upside down in your mind, as there is no prism to correct the orientation for you. And yes… you have to get under a black sheet (a focusing cloth), just like the pictures of the old fashioned photographers with gun powder flashes. 

Digital cameras are changing the experience of photography radically, eliminating the phases of film development and print making, there by radically reducing the cycle time between capturing the image and evaluating it. Before digital cameras completely erase the cultural memory of the traditional photograph process I thought it would interesting to write down some thoughts on about it.

Often the Cynefin Framework is illustrated by listing different processes or forms of a single concept.  I’d like to present a view of the Cynefin framework through a single process or experience, photography, where different stages lead us through the framework.

A Mechanical Art Form

I discovered that this camera was the technical means in photography of communicating what the world looks like in a state of heightened awareness. And it’s that awareness of really looking at the everyday world with clear and focused attention that I’m interested in. 

-Stephen Shore
At Bard College, where I studied photography, I engaged in a passionate argument with a well known painter. She claimed painter sees while doing, the photographer only sees later. Painter’s brush is directly under control of her eye. Photography was a lesser art form.

The camera for me is filled with paradoxes, immediate gratification combines with delayed gratification, a machine that makes art, the mechanistic capturing the visceral. The interplay between the mechanical and the creative…

Anyway… making photograph is a multistep process, engaging individuals or groups of individuals in each stage. I’d like to present an argument that different stages of the creation of a photograph fall with in different domains of the Cynefin Framework (for an experienced photographer).

Dancing With a Camera

“the decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.”

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

Larry Fink: Birthday Party, NYC, 3/2007

Larry Fink (my mentor and teacher) can capture music in still images like no one else, this image throbs with the rhythm of the music like an O. Winston Link train chugging thru the night. To make an image like this I suggest the following:

  • Listen to Jazz Music for 5 years 
  • Listen to Live Jazz Music for 10 years…
  • Photograph the jazz musicians 
  • Play Jazz Music for 5 years 
  • Make photos the entire time 

Now you have entrained your mind to be extremely sensitized by visual patterns and musical rhythms, this is important, because the image captured here only happens very very rarely, as the music, your relationship to the room and the people all coalesce… you almost need to have a moment of synesthesias, right before this moment the camera will rise to your eye and just then, perfectly, without thought, your fingers will make the image effortlessly. You will make many many images, probing with your strobe in the dark chaos, only later will you see which have worked.

In my work, which tends towards portraiture and landscapes, I feel a “hitch” in reality when I “see” an image. For me this is experienced as a skip in time, where everything slows down a bit and I feel my self momentarily ‘stuck’ in a view point that “should be” an image. If I have a camera with me I can usually find the image again. With the Large format this part of making the image is slow and methodical, but the image has already been found.

Emergent Connections 

Lee Friedlander: House, Trailer, Sign and Cloud – Knoxville, Tennessee, 1971.

In bring order to [a] situation, a photographer solves a picture more than composes ones

-Steven Shore – The Nature of Photographs


Did you notice the Ice Cream cone in the Frienlander image? 

Steven Shore (another mentor and professor) uses this image to explain the way that photographers compose images. 

A naive approach to composition proposes a formula, the Golden Ratio, or the rule of thirds is very common. However the image here is not composed by formula, it is created by managing the emergent connections and visual relationships in the image. The cloud and the yield sign combine to bring new meaning to the image, and in this way the photographer has composed the image by selecting his vantage point.

This is not a composition that could be created without exploring the environment. 

Developing Negatives

The development of negatives is based strictly on forumlas. So much so that the entire process can be automated. Most black and white development is done by hand, however color negative is almost always done by machine. With black and white film some previous experience can be useful for fine tuning the selection of process, but most of the time, anyone with access to the formulas, equipement and time can develop film. The key is rigorous adhesion to the defined process. The negatives can only be inspected after completion of the process, there is no option for iteration. If you screw up the steps, you’ve blown your roll (or rolls) of film.

Making Prints

There is something magic about watching an image float onto the paper in the darkroom. Making fine art prints is a highly iterative activity. The photographer prints, then observes the print under lighting matching that that the print will be displayed under. Carefully comparing multiple prints. There are many things to consider, contrast (is there enough light in the shadows), blacks (is there a TRUE black), and dodging (does the balance of the light in the image work?). Once the “formula” for exposing, dodging and developing has been found, it is possible to replicate the image within reason, but there will always be some subtle differences. Print making is the realm of experts, there are many methods and possible processes. Making a edition is extremely difficult. Many professional photographers hire individuals who specialize in simply producing the “best” possible image from their negatives repeatedly. These printers are highly trained to help the photographer FIND THEIR best possible print from the nearly infinite possibilities.

The Photograph

With the print in hand, the photograph is made. Now it is in its’ most tenuous state. On the physical level the photograph is incredibly simple, fully realized and stable. On the social level it is a completely different experience. Photographs are stimuli for various stories, alone without support they can be assigned novel narratives from different viewers. In this way, for the Photographer, the image floats between his intend meaning and the audiences potential meaning. Drifting between Simple and Chaotic. Most photographers turn towards a portfolio, a series of images, to stabilize their intended meaning. 

The Americans

Robert Frank ‘The Americans‘ Exhibit Credit:takkejong

In 1955 Robert Frank shot some 28,000 images, on a series of cross country trips in the United States. Eventually he selected only 83 for his book ‘The Americans.’ 

Photographs of Frank’s editing process reveal him thumb tacking images, overlapping down the walls. One imagines him hunting for connections, conjuring forth a narrative, the story of the Americans, from a dizzying array of images. This isn’t the work of a man who “saw” the book and went out to find the images to fill the preconceptions. It is, as most great work, emergent from the visceral experience of life itself, immediately captured, lovingly processed, printed with expertise and structured/codified/re-enforced to sustain the photographers message. Simply amazing… 


Of course I have simplified the entire process of taking a photograph to tell a story here, but I hope that you can see, the process of making photographs is multi-layer and the photograph, its creation and its meaning evolve over time. As the photograph passes through time on a journey to its place, it and the photographer move through various parts of the Cynefin Framework, from Order to Un-Order the chaotic to the simple. 

It is my belief that most creative processes, either individual or social, also fluidly flow through the various Cynefin regions. Rarely will an entire project be in a single domain at once, often the multiple layers of understanding required for a project, will find themselves in dispirit regions. The trick is using the right techniques at the right time, for the right regions.

There are no recipes for seeing good photographs, there are some good compositional hints I can give however… There is also no checklist that will get you a work of art like ‘The Americans’, you have to go out and find not only those images, you have to find the connections between them by experiencing them visually, together, until they balance.

The Golden Birmingham Screwdriver

I’ve been thinking about where to go next, I think that exploring Boundedness is critical before I can procede to some of the other topics on my list.

Originally I set out to understand the origin of David Snowden’s term “Bounded Applicabability.” I can’t say that I have found the origin of the concept (David could probably fill that part in best), but I thought it maybe interesting to write about what I found while looking. Having now spent some time thinking reading and writing about it, I realize that the topic of Boundedness is rather large and I can’t hope to capture it completely in a post.

So… In this post I am going to try to create some links between ideas, instead of attempting to encompass the subject. My hope is to create some entry ways into the concept that will encourage you to explore it more deeply. Creating a web of ideas is useful for catching people. I don’t wish to dilute the concepts themselves, only to make them more approachable.
It is important that we learn to cross boundaries, but vitally important that we do not place ourselves in boxes.

Bounded Perception

The bounding of our perception is, upon brief reflection, obvious. For instance we are limited to “seeing” what is in the visible spectrum. Humans have a limited audible range of frequencies. Both which point towards a limitation of our ability to perceive reality fully. It is worth pointing out, and I will return to at some point, the idea that we can (and have) developed the capability to see beyond the visible spectrum.

There are other ways in which our perception is limited, we may only have a limited time to observe, we may only have a limited ability to understand the information we perceive (the Unmodelled Area).

Homo Economicus

Homo economicus, the self-interested agent, is imagined by economist, to have hyper-rationality, be driven to gain wealth by narrow self-interest and have instant universal free access to nearly perfect knowledge.
Homo Economicus… “can think like Albert Einstein, store as much memory as IBM’s Big Blue, and exercise the willpower of Mahatma Gandhi”
-Thaler and Sunstein 

Rationality is not moral here, it is narrowly limited to the idea that you can make useful predictions about the results of actions in your environment to your own benefit, otherwise known as rational egoism.

Utility is taken to be correlative to Desire or Want. It has been already argued that desires cannot be measured directly, but only indirectly, by the outward phenomena to which they give rise: and that in those cases with which economics is chiefly concerned the measure is found in the price which a person is willing to pay for the fulfilment or satisfaction of his desire.

Rational Choice theory examines the concept of Homo Economicus. Interestingly like a form of a Turing Test, rational choice theory only focuses on the effects of external stimuli, ignoring the concept of internal motivation all together. The extrinsic vs intrinsic motivations Agile and Lean practitioners 

may are concern with is potentially interesting to explore.
As a model I imagine the Homo Economicus to be a “universal” model, one that is intended to be applied without regard to the environment or individual.

Bounded Rationality
Boundedly rational agents experience limits in formulating and solving complex problems and in processing (receiving, storing, retrieving, transmitting) information
-Herbert Simon 

As a reaction to the idealistic Homo Economicus we get Bounded Rationality. Here agents are seen to have limited or costly access to information, cognitive limitations and limited resources or time available to make decisions. Herbert Simon develops this idea into a concept of satisficing, where agents, unable to fully perceive their environment and make perfectly rational predictions about the performance of actions in that environment, attempt to simplify the decisions to understandable “proxies” for the environment, then make a decision from these simplifications. This results in satisfactory as opposed to optimal decision.

Daniel Kahneman’s work explores the implications of bounded rationality, including extensive examples of bias that limit our cognitive abilities to make rational decisions.

Bounded Applicability

Bounded Rationality mediates our decisions, limited by our resources, time and perceptions, to reality. Bounded Applicability mediates our decisions about which TOOLS to use in relation to the environment we find ourselves in. Different tools (and our capabilities with those tools) are more economically viable for solving problems based on the resources, time and perceptions we have available to us.

The Golden Birmingham Screwdriver

I call it the law of the instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.
-Abraham Kaplan

Failure to recognize the Bounded Applicability of our tools results in less effective utilization of those tools. Teams using the wrong process for the wrong problem may lose confidence in the tool, a tool that is very useful in other domains, but which they will now avoid.

Things to Consider

Just as no one has unbounded access to information, no tool, process, practice or method is universally applicable.

Develop not only the CAPABILITY for teams to sense which domains their work falls in, but also the CAPABILITY to operate in, and an understanding of which practices and guiding principles work in, that domain.

btw… there are of course also 50 ways to leave your lover… I might suggest however that if you make a new plan, Stan you approach it as a guide not a fixed decision.
We can now start thinking about boundaries themselves, gradients and edges… in another post.

Cooking Up Super Sunday Chili

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it makes a better soup.

-H.L. Mencken

One of the things that I enjoy about good metaphors, they activate a sense of synchronicity in life. When someone tells you a resonate metaphor, and activates it in your mind, you start hearing variations on that theme, which seem to appear serendipitously. The variations fill out the metaphor and make it personal and local, richer and more meaningful.

Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation– experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way.
-Paul Theroux

So, I smiled today as my mother told me a story about a friend asking for a recipe for chili. I’ve returned home to Drowned Valley Farm to enjoy a day of football with my family and chili is a traditional dish. My mother, quite unprovoked, proclaimed:

“I’ve been trying to resist giving him a recipe for years, I keep telling him, you don’t make chili from a recipe, you just make chili. I think I’ve found a solution though, I’m going to give him 3 recipes and tell him to pick his favorite parts of each, then maybe he’ll begin to learn.”

Cooking Metaphors
Cooking is not about convenience and it’s not about shortcuts. Our hunger for the twenty-minute gourmet meal, for one-pot ease and prewashed, precut ingredients has severed our lifeline to the satisfactions of cooking. Take your time. Take a long time. Move slowly and deliberately and with great attention.
-Thomas Keller 

This reminded me immediately of David Snowden’s Chef and Recipe Book User metaphor. Snowden uses this metaphor to highlight (among other things) the tendency of novice practitioners to lean heavily on prescriptive practice, in an effort to fail-safe attempts to reproduce previous outcomes. Overreliance on predefined process often fails to appropriately balance practices and tools with context.

In the worst case scenarios, instead of taking local context into account, practitioners reengineer the environment itself to resemble environments where they have previously been successful. This reduces variation and limits the resilience of businesses and the ecosystem in general.

Karl Scotland had another amusing tweetable metaphor for this last week:

@alshalloway if you have a sports car and need to go over rugged terrain, you could smooth the terrain, or switch to a 4×4.
2/1/12 1:46 PM
*there is a bit of bounded applicability in here too, but that is another post

Agile practitioners will hear echoes of the “doing Agile vs. being Agile” argument, as well as the more and more prevalent “practices vs. principles” discussions. Lean/Kanban practitioners will be reminded of “hipster kanban” and formulaic implementations focused on the Kanban board. 

Cooking, that gives rise to “home cooked meals,” is something your senses and experiences engage in.  It is not a check list to be completed.


I suppose now is as good a time as any to fess up to being born in San Antonio, TX.

During the 2 years that my parents lived there, at Lackland AFB, they were inundated with recipes and advice on how to make the appropriate chili.

San Antonio, for those who aren’t in the know, is a bit like the historical capital of chili con carne.

“The chili stand and chili queens are peculiarities, or unique institutions, of the Alamo City. They started away back there when the Spanish army camped on the plaza. They were started to feed the soldiers. Every class of people in every station of life patronized them in the old days. Some were attracted by the novelty of it, some by the cheapness. A big plate of chili and beans, with a tortilla on the side, cost a dime.” 

-San Antonio Commissioner Frank H. Bushick Frontier Times Magazine July 1927

So I was brought up eating and cooking chili. Some of my fondest memories of cooking with my father revolve around learning what was reasonable to try in chili, and what was unlikely to work. As a child the temptation to throw anything and everything in the pot was strong, and that is what Dad was apparently doing. Over time and with lots of questions Dad taught me rules of thumb… what was reasonable. I never saw him use a recipe– not  once.

How to make Chili

The most basic recipes for chili call for meat, onions, tomatoes, and chile peppers. From there anything is possible: sausage, garlic, kidney beans, pulled pork, beef broth, cumin, cloves, oregano, brown sugar, bell peppers, cannellini bean, pinto beans, venison…

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.
-Julia Child

My personal chili (which has won chili cook offs (double blind even)) has regular appearances from; chocolate, liquid smoke, Boston Baked Beans, fresh chili peppers roasted on an oven till the skins are blackened, hot red curry, and beer.

Then again I like ketchup on green beans… There is no accounting for taste.

This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!
-Julia Child

So… here are the three recipes my mother gave her friend… and one from Lady Bird Johnson thrown in for good measure. I suggest you scan the recipes. Aim for a chili that is “in between” the ones listed here. See which ingredients you have on hand, resist the urge to take one recipe to the store and full fill a check list. Throw what you have in a pot… taste it often… and enjoy!

I don’t like gourmet cooking or “this” cooking or “that” cooking. I like good cooking. 
-James Beard

Tabasco sauce is to bachelor cooking what forgiveness is to sin.


Your idea of that dish has evolved, and if you’re a cook, you can start thinking in different ways about it, maybe even a different way than I think about it.

-Thomas Keller

Lady Bird Johnson’s Chili Recipe

One last piece of advice… when baking… FOLLOW THE RECIPE (even better find a local baker to help you with local recipes that work, then FOLLOW THAT RECIPE, altitude and local cultures (sourdough, for instance) massively impact the success of baked goods).

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit. ”
-Julia Child

Death Rests Within

We create monsters and then we can’t control them. -Joel Coen

Remixed Photo Credit: croweb 

 Complexity minded people spend a lot of time talking/thinking about detecting weak signals, but sometimes big scary company killing problems are obvious to some, but unseen by others. The signal isn’t weak, but it isn’t traversing the social network well enough to get addressed.

Individuals in the Kanban community have taken to referring to problems like these as “Intangibles.”

Weak signal problems require attuning our senses to the present to “feel” subtle changes in what is happening. Intangible problems are caused by a disconnect between those who understand that addressing what is most painful today, may leave us exposed to what may be VERY painful in the future.

“Intangible class items may be important and valuable, but there is no tangible cost of delay associated with them in the near future….
-David Anderson Kanban

Intangibles have a power law curve for future costs 

“Company Killers” as I like to call them are a special subset of Intangibles. They are large, monolithic, complex problems that hang around the company. These problems are elephantine, apparently docile if unprovoked, but prone to rampages once awakened. Company Killers are too frightening to approach and are shunted off never to be spoken of again.

Defusing Company Killers

Remixed Photo Credit: donsolo 

Defusing Company Killers is a two step process.

First, expose the Killers to management by “drawing them a picture”, so the Killers can be seen clearly.

Second, illustrate the amount of WIP vs Slack, so management can understand how their focus on the near term is effecting their risks in the long term.

In this post I would like to explain an exercise I have successfully used in engineering departments for “drawing management a picture”, in order to flush out Company Killers. This exercise has been particularly helpful for me when “launching” Kanban (or other WIP Limiting frameworks) efforts as it illustrates risk, WIP and their relationship.

Exposing the problems visually to management can help them “see” risk and then actively manage the reduction in risk, without invoking the Ostrich Algorithm.

The Exercise


Like any good visualization exercise you are going to need: 

  • Sharpies 
  • 3 Colors of Stickie (Yellow, Pink and Green work well) 
  • A White Board 
  • Team members 
  • Managers 

Step 1. Get It All Out

Begin getting the Team Members together. You will need the managers later, but not now. Place one yellow sticky and one blue sticky on the white board to create a legend, label them “Work in Progress” and “Work Someone Expects Me to Do.”

Distribute the yellow and blue stickies to each of the participants.

The instructions for the participants:

“We are going to build a picture so that we can show managers how their expectations are effecting our work.
On the yellow stickies, write any work that you are currently working on, or have started but not finished. On the blue stickies, please write any work that you are aware of and that you believe someone expects you to do. Please spend 5-10 minutes writing down EVERYTHING you can think of for each of these to colors.”

Step 2. See the WIP

When the team member are done at the board, draw an X & Y axis, using the full height and width of the white board. Label the X axis “Complexity” and the Y axis “SIZE”. Put a red dot or an X mark in the top right hand corner. Write “Fix a Typo” at the origin of the graph. 

The instructions for the participants:

“We are going to do an Affinity Diagram that clusters relatively similar items together across this space. Please cluster the items by size and complexity. We aren’t looking for an exact location for each sticky, just place each in relative size and complexity to it’s neighbors.  

Down here at the origin of the graph is where you put the simplest task possible, like fixing a typo. Hopefully, none of you have anything that small on your plate. 
Up here in the top right [point to red dot or X] is something as huge and complex as creating a replacement space craft for the decommissioned Space Shuttle.
Please go to the board one at a time and briefly explain each task as you place them on the graph.”

Anonymized Result

In my experience, when giving extreme examples like “fixing a typo” and “replacing the Space Shuttle”, it has not been necessary to explain Simple Complicated and Complex. The extreme examples –something way too small and something far too large –give the team “space”. By making the extremes outside of the team’s normal expectations they are less likely to place their stickies on those ends of the graph. They are more likely to use a wider area between the axis.

Step 3. Find the Killers

Place one pink sticky on the white board to finalize the legend, label it “Company Killer”

Distribute pink stickies to each of the participants.

The instructions for the participants:

“We need to find the projects or ideas that are going to kill the company. Spend five minutes thinking of projects or tasks that, if not completed in the next 6-12 months, would kill the company.”

After 5 mins.

“If there are any tasks already on the board that you know of that would kill the company, please write those on a pink sticky, as well. Then put the new stickies on the board relative to the other tasks we’ve identified. If you have a pink sticky for a task already on the board, please remove the old one and replace it with the pink one.”

Anonymized Result

Step 4. Explain Yourself

Step 4.1 Help the Team See

The Churn Zone

The Churn Zone

Nobody likes fixing typos over and over –this is “the churn zone”. Work here is busy work. It’s small, simple work. Large amounts of work items here indicate a high likelihood of multitasking. The team could be fragmenting the work too much if they identify too many items that fit here. Questions to ask: Who is assigning this work? What tasks are highly repetitive? Can we automate any of them?

The Strange Nature of Company Killers

The Kill Zone

The tasks in the “Kill Zone” area –large, complex Company Killers, have an odd nature. Team members can identify them, but the risk is that they APPEAR well understood and encapsulated. One of the ways that Company Killers hide is in Cognitive Ease. They are large and unfragmented and everyone agrees on them even if they ignore them. The problem is, that when they are actually examined, Company Killers tend to take a “quantum leap” into the Unmodelled area skipping right over Ordered and Complex and hurtling into the chaotic. As the team unpacks the problem, they realize that they don’t really understand it as well as they thought they did.

Company Killers’ Quantum Leap

Company Killers need to be decomposed carefully and early. Identifying test projects, agile “spikes”, and safe-fail experiments are critical to helping the teams and management truly understand the scope of these issues.

Step 4.2 Show Management

It is critical to have all the managers who are responsible for assigning work to the team members come in and examine the visual aid the team has created. Ideally, a team member (or two) can explain the image, how it was made and the implications. Show the balance between The Churn Zone and The Kill Zone. Make sure that managers leave with an understanding of:

  • WIP 
  • Intangible Class Items (and how to manage them) 
  • The relationship between WIP, Slack and Intangibles 

Finally, this is the time to explain to management how a Kanban system can help limit WIP and focus teams on balancing near term and long term efforts.

I’ll need to unpack those ideas in relation to this exercise in another post…

if you made it this far you are a trooper, thanks! Maybe you want to click a +1 or tweet about this post?

Exploring “A work in progress”

Let’s start by seeing if I can get in trouble…

I’ve spent some time thinking about David Snowden’s “A work in progress” model for the complex domain. It took me awhile to get my head around it… I’m not convinced that I haven’t actually missed some significant bits of it.  In fact when David (and Steve Holt) start talking about a 3D dimension, I am sure I am missing something.

As a visual person after I pondered the graph for a little while I decided to redraw the graph, so that I could see it “my way”, I think I may have gained a couple insights for myself on the way (your milage may vary).

In this post I’ll do my best to explain what I “see”.

Coherence, Convergence and Coalescence

The “WIP” model refines Cynefin’s domain of complexity by adding 3 dimensions, 4 “danger areas” which are contrasted against a “valid range”.

David Snowden’s “WIP” Model – Copyright © 2007 Cognitive Edge

Here is where my confusion started, the post containing the “A work in progress” model (referred to as the “WIP model” in the remainder of this post) defines Coherence and Convergence but skips Coalescence. I vaguely remembered the terms being defined before and sure enough they are, on the previous post. I’ve reposted David’s definitions here, they are critical to understanding the WIP model.

  • Coherence: the degree to which any need or requirement is structured/defined/understood
  • Coalescence: the level of fragmentation of the requirement and connectivity between fragments.
  • Convergence: the degree to which different interest groups agree on the needs and nature of what is needed

The Cynefin Framework’s dissection of the difference between complexity and complicated was rewarding, similarly this model enriches my understanding by illuminating the subtle difference between terms that at first blush seem so close as to be colloquially synonymous.

Until seeing this model, Coherence has been, for me, the main measure of “valid” structure in narrative. Here the model yields it’s first insight for me, “full” coherence by itself is not only not “enough”, it is outside of the “valid range”. We need to have an additional measure of validity on our pursuit of actionable knowledge, Convergence. Convergence by itself, leads to Pattern Entrainment, where we agree on the way to do things without understanding the structure of the problems we are solving. An additional final validity measure is added by coalescence. Here information becomes more interconnected and pieces start to “fit together” defragementing into a whole.

Valid knowledge in this model emerges as teams bring fragmented “pieces” of knowledge, from disprit viewpoints, together and agree on ways of making that knowledge actionable.

As I examined the model, I realized that “to complicated” hinted that the “Ordered” area in this graph contains both Complicated and Simple areas of the Cynefin model. Which makes sense and is probably obvious to Cynefinites but maybe hidden from the uninitiated. The Cynefin model is often broken down into two domains; Ordered (Cynefin; Complicated and Simple (Labeled ORDERED in the top right here)) and Un-Ordered (Cynefin; Complex and Chaotic, (Both labeled in the mid to lower left here)).

Continuing to carefully review the diagram, in my case by recreating it, left me with some questions.

“complexity and its three boundaries (to chaos, to complicated and to disorder)”

I see two clearly defined boundaries… to chaos (lower left, towards LOW Convergence, Coalescence, and Coherence) and to complicated (upper right, moving FROM High Convergence, Coalescence, and Coherence). I’m unsure of where Disorder lies on this diagram?

Jabe’s Inverted WIP Model

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.   

-Albert Einstein

Jabe’s Inverted WIP model

So… here is my attempt to make some sense of David’s WIP model for myself. As Einstein notes above, I ain’t exactly a genius for making it more complex, but I hope to elicit some conversation that will clarify the model further.

The first major difference between David’s WIP Model and mine… I’ve placed Lows (and added ∞) at the extremes of the graph and HIGHs (with a limit of 1 not 0) at the origin. This shifts the perspective of the graph, as constraints on the system increase, a (theoretically) perfectly Coherent, Convergent, Coalesced problem moves towards a singularity. As constraints (as well as knowledge and connections) are removed from the system the possible answer space broadens and expands. This feels more like my experience of problem solving, where Order moves towards a limit but Disorder is nearly infinite. In the past I’ve thought of this movement of information from Chaotic through Complex, toward an Ordered state as a “Cone of Certainty.” The trade off here is that as we move towards Order the decisions we have made constrain our system more and more, forcing us toward potentially suboptimal solutions. Complexity theorist will recognize this as a form of bifurcation, where previous decisions alter the possible solution space.

I’ve added two “danger areas”:

  • CE: Cognitive Ease; Lower Left: As Coalescence, Coherence and Convergence move towards 1, teams risk the chance of believing they understand the problem so completely they don’t need to think about it anymore. This is the realm of oversimplification and myth. Concepts that make their way here can be VERY DIFFICULT to dislodge. With a complete lack of conflict, teams will all agree that they are talking about the same thing, they will claim they all “understand” it and will all agree there is a clear process to solve the problem. Delegation will work well, until the context of the problem changes, leaving teams hurtling towards chaos with little understanding of the “why” of the original solution. This is the domain of “The Bananananananana Principle”. This danger area is in some contention with David’s Pattern Entrainment. I’m somewhat confident that my “danger area” is worth differentiating. 
  • UM: Unmodeled; Upper Right: Moving towards disorder we find ourselves beyond the realm of probability, where teams have no language or models to begin to describe the problems they are attempting to solve. Lacking models to describe the problems, teams maybe either, unable to clearly identify a route towards order OR be completely unaware that parts of their systems are in a state of disorder. This is the domain of being blindsided. This is the domain of Zombie computers, and PEBKAC, where experienced users have difficulty helping inexperienced users, due to a complete lack of a reasonable shared model. 

I’ve labelled the two borders that (I think) are shared by David’s and my inverted model. I’ve indicated with arrows the direction of movement across domains. Again it is important to note that the WIP Model’s ORDERED area contains both of the Complicated and Simple domains of the Cynefin model. In the top right I have added a border “to disorder”, I am pretty unsure… does it belong there? Is the shape correct?

Finally I’ve added a new “valid area”, in yellow just beyond the border of “to chaotic.” This area is valid in a different way than the green area. Probability is valid in this area. We have effective models for describing and examining the performance of a system in this area. Given a large enough amount of input statistical models can be very effective in this area, in order to probe the chaos and “find” interesting patterns. This area is the area of Experimental Mathematics and “The Lean Startup.” Economies change here… many small measurable safe-fail probes become significantly more cost efficient than attempt to bring order to the domain before taking action. Action can be taken quickly with expectation of high rates of failure. Team’s focus on recoverability instead of continuity and stability.

As usual, creating this model and writing this post has given me more clarity around my thoughts… I look forward to hearing yours.