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Cognitive Edge & Cynefin Centre team

Online learning modules and courses are supported by Cognitive Edge and/or Cynefin Centre staff members. Learning module content has been created by experienced Cynefin practitioners and subject matter experts. Self-paced online learning module support is available by email.

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About this course


Cynefin™ and Complexity: managing effectively in uncertainty


*** If you sign-up for a Cynefin Practitioners Foundations in-person course, you'll receive free access to this online course. 


About this course

In today’s increasingly volatile and uncertain world, there is a need  for new ways of making sense of current situations and managing in new and rapidly shifting contexts. Our past practices and approaches are failing us and what had worked reliably during more stable times in the past is unfortunately proving inadequate for the dynamic present. This 12-week online course introduces complexity theory and shows how decades of applying primarily scientific management together with an obsession with best practices and a belief in certainty has created significant risks and vulnerabilities.

This course will cover the core science behind uncertainty and how managing with such an understanding will provide your organisation with a strategic advantage. Participants will learn about the Cynefin framework – and how to apply it in organisations to make better decisions across ordered contexts, complex situations, and prepare for and seize the innovation opportunity offered by chaos.

This course will close on 30 September 2020.* 


What does the course cover?

This 12-week online program presents you with a foundational understanding of complex adaptive systems theory, the Cynefin™ framework and its application, and some practical methods and techniques to improving sense-making and decision-making in complex contexts. This online course will provide you with the foundational understanding of why it is important to assess situations recognizing aspects of many situations are complex, ordered, and potentially chaotic. With this understanding methods and approaches for effectively acting and managing in complexity will be taught.

This course equips participants with the key components of a sense-making toolkit for working in complex and uncertain environments. Upon completion of this 12-week program you will be ready to do situational assessments with the Cynefin framework, understand the qualities of complex situations and selectively apply methods for sense-making and action planning in such environments. A key tool for managing in uncertainty is the application of facilitation methods with a group of people in a workshop environment to engage a diversity of perspectives and human cognition capacity.  A foundational set of such facilitation methods and techniques will be taught with supplementary workshop exercises for participants to embed their learning offline.

Who is this course for?

You should dive into this course if you…

  • work in constantly-evolving, dynamic situations and are in need of more effective decision support tools; 

  • have experienced unexpected outcomes or challenges with what were assumed to be well-planned initiatives;

  • are experiencing greater degrees of uncertainty and risk; 

  • are looking to create greater resilience and agility in your organisation;

  • are seeking to improve leadership skills in managing in uncertainty; or

  • would like to take the first step towards becoming a Certified Cynefin™ Practioner/Trainer.

 Course overview

This course has been created from several years of in-person delivery of training by Cognitive Edge. The content has been modularised into five (5) learning modules with each divided into two activity types: (1) LECTURE & STUDY, and (2) EXERCISES & PRACTICE. We suggest all 5 modules be completed over a 10-week contiguous period, however, a faster pace can be achieved by participants who are able to complete both activity types in a compressed time period. 

Please note that training video resources on this course reflect the most current thinking of Dave Snowden and collaborators with Cognitive Edge. Exercises have been adapted for application in participant’s organisation or peer groups to embed learning in local contexts. Course module descriptions below are subject to change and may be adjusted prior and/or during course delivery.


 WEEK 1: Welcome & Overview

WEEK 2: Positioning the approach of anthro-complexity


MODULE 1: Complexity Theory & safe to fail

WEEK 3: LECTURE & STUDY (Estimated time: 3-4 hrs)  

WEEK 4: EXERCISES & PRACTICE (Estimated time: 3-4 hrs)

Upon completion of Module 1 you will understand…

  • the differences between ordered, complex, and chaotic contexts

  • how constraints define and influence different types of systems

  • Implications of assuming a situation is ordered when it was complex

  • how to start thinking of actions in an exploratory probing sense

MODULE 2: Complexity Theory & Managing in complexity

WEEK 5: LECTURE & STUDY (Estimated time: 2-3 hrs)

WEEK 6: EXERCISES & PRACTICE (Estimated time: 3-4 hrs)


Upon completion of Module 2 you will understand…

  • the difference between a sense-making and categorization framework

  • how Cynefin informs decision-making and different types of action

  • how humans divide Order into two domains: Obvious and Complicated

  • how to engage a team or group workshop in making sense of situations using the  Cynefin framework by categorisation situations

MODULE 3: Liminal Cynefin & Dynamics

WEEK 7: LECTURE & STUDY (Estimated time: 2-3 hrs)

WEEK 8: EXERCISES & PRACTICE (Estimated time: 2-3 hrs)

Upon completion of Module 3 you will understand…

  • the significance of the Liminal form of the Cynefin™ framework and how it helps you manage the Explore - Exploit dynamic and stimulate innovation

  • How to manage constraints to stimulate dynamics shifts in context

MODULE 4: Future backwards and side casting techniques

WEEK 9: LECTURE & STUDY (Estimated time: 2-3 hrs)

WEEK 10: EXERCISES & PRACTICE (Estimated time: 2-3 hrs)


Upon completion of Module 4 you will understand…

  • the differences between forecasting, back-casting, and side -casting

  • How to use focused groupthink in contrast to workshop participant diversity to enhance scanning

  • How our shared past experiences bias our perceptions of the future

  • how the Future-backwards exercise can be applied to lessons learning and situational assessment

MODULE 5: Exaptation, Narrative, and Synthesis

WEEK 11: LECTURE & STUDY (Estimaged time: 2-4 hrs)

WEEK 12: EXERCISES & PRACTICE (Estimated time: 2-4 hrs)

Upon completion of Module 5 you will understand…

  • exaptation and how serendipity is critical to innovation

  • how narrative and its application can be used for sense-making in complex and uncertain conditions

  • how to link together several practices from a practitioner’s perspective

* - course close date is subject to change should an updated course be released ahead of the course close date.  

 Cancellations / Refunds / Transfers

  • Tickets are non-refundable and non-cancellable
  • Training applies to registered individuals only and training material access by non-registered users is strictly prohibited
  • Tickets are transferrable prior to course launch

Explanation of additional ticket options:

  1. Premium Members get 15% discount on all training. Sign up for the Network here: Cognitive Edge network registration for a Basic membership. When you’ve done that you’ll be directed to the Network Dashboard page, click on the upgrade option to pay to become a Premium member. Once your Premium Membership sign-up is completed you will receive an email with the details of the 15% discount code.

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