Cynefin® & Safety

Last month we celebrated 21 years of Cynefin. In the new book Cynefin® – weaving sense-making into the fabric of our world, Dave Snowden describes how the framework has evolved and it’s wonderfully illustrated by research artist Sue Borchardt.

The message is that to remain relevant and useful, models, frameworks, and maps change in response to the arrival of new information and learnings. We’ve certainly witnessed that in the world of Safety. Some argue that the proliferation of new models is doing damage by confusing people. I personally welcome diverse thinking as a healthy recognition that life isn’t clean, straight-forward, and fits nicely in a 2×2 table; life is fuzzy, messy, non-linear, and entangled. Very much like the bramble bush background that Sue used to connect the emerging Cynefin versions.

Our anthro-complexity view of safety is different from the traditional view held by industry leaders and executives. It has been strongly influenced and supported by the Cynefin Framework. Safety in organizations is not produced or manufactured. Safety is an emergent property of many interacting forces, such as employees, policies, incentive systems, and regulatory requirements in a complex adaptive system: an organization.

In 2 online panel conversations held last month, I and fellow safety colleagues reminisced about the evolution of safety. We also shared how we can use the Cynefin Framework and Narrative to see new possibilities for designing and improving safety in companies.


In the August 2021 Meet the Author show, we had Michael Cheveldave join us to talk about the chapter that co-wrote: “A Cynefin Approach to Leading Safety in Organizations.”

Click here to view the video recording.

Earlier in April, Michael spoke at the NYC Complexity Lounge meetup to discuss “Cynefin & Safety: Working with the messy reality of human systems”.

Click here to view the video recording.