Video: “Practice without sound theory will not scale”– invaluable lessons for model transformation


The following introduction doesn’t do justice to Dave Snowden’s presentation but there are some things that I felt I needed to say.

Having been an insurance broker for circa 30 years you acquire a broad “knowledge” of a wide range of industries and sectors. You also come to appreciate that there are common practices in one industry that can provide, if not the solution, then an outline of a solution in another. But, unless there is the means to communicate between industries and across sectors valuable lessons can be lost: information is transformed (and transformational) with effective communication…it should go without saying that this is also true of communications WITHIN an organisation.

In former roles, the process of learning about the business for which you were required to arrange appropriate cover, I came across variations of problems that I had seen in unrelated industries. When I did, I shared as much information as I could in the hope that this would help the client and assist me in gaining the trust and patronage of the prospective client. Sometimes this approach had the desired effect and everyone won as a result. I used to refer to it as “David’s handy hints”. I came to think of this a bit like a bee pollenating plants and, in some respects, this is a good analogy.

Having watched this fantastic presentation by Dave Snowden, I am delighted to have discovered a new term for and understanding of what it was I was doing: EXAPTATION

My own interpretation is that, whilst adaptive behaviour is pretty readily understood, where evolution is triggered by external knowledge (from another system or environment) exaptation precedes the adaptation to facilitate system survival and growth.

Thankfully, due to the ability to communicate freely across industries…and across the globe, exaptation is more common than at any point in our history and the process accelerated.

According to DS exaptive behaviour has been more important as our world has evolved than adaptive. Far be it from me to argue!

Video presentation

There are many invaluable “takeaways” from this presentation and some that could make the difference between success and failure, as business models evolve to embrace the many benefits that the digital era offers. Here is the official blurb:

Agile methods in general have arise from a mixture of sound practice and good principles, but they lack an over all theory. Complexity Science, coupled with insights from the Cognitive Sciences challenges the basic assumptions of systems thinking and idealist uses of “self-organisation” alike. This presentation will provide an overview of CAS*, and more specifically the Cynefin framework which has been widely adopted within the AGILE Community. It will examine the critical role that constraints play in allowing evolution to take place in systems and the implications for team formation, requirements capture and project monitoring. Fundamentally it will challenge a purely engineering approach to systems involving human agency. It will focus on effectiveness, not efficiency and resilience not robustness.But the business models of the future Understand theory (complex) for scalability. Practice (agile) will not develop theory. Two need to be present, to co-exist and to co-evolve.

*Complex Adaptive Systems: unlike DS the Ontonix perspective is that a Complex System, by definition is adaptive, so we refer simply to Complex Systems.

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