Business Case Studies, Executive Interviews, David J Snowden on Decision Making

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Interview with David J Snowden on Decision Making

May 2008 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Complexity Science shows us a range of systems where there are no right answers, only possibilities so our theory of leadership and decision-making has to change to accommodate this.
— David J Snowden
Effective executive interview with David J Snowden on Decision Making

David J Snowden has been one of the leading figures in the movement towards integration of humanistic approaches to knowledge management with appropriate technology and process design. Well known for his work on the role of narrative and sense making, he is an entertaining speaker and a formidable realist, and one of the few thought leaders who can bring together the academic and practitioner perspectives into a single, comprehensible purview. He is the Founder of Cognitive Edge, an organization focused on the creation of an open-source approach to the development and propagation of

methods, emergent and distributed forms of research and the development of software, branded as sensemaker based on the ideas and practice of the network he founded. He left IBM in July 2004 having been a Director of IBM's Institute for Knowledge Management and the founder of the Cynefin Center for Organizational Complexity. The Cynefin framework that he created has been acknowledged as one of the first practical applications of complexity theory to management science. He is an acknowledged pioneer in the use of narrative

and one of the leaders of the naturalistic approach to sense making in organizations.A native of Wales, he is a leading keynote speaker at major conferences around the world and is known for his iconoclastic style, pragmatic cynicism and extensive use of stories to communicate what would otherwise be difficult concepts. Tom Stewart, the new editor of Harvard Business Review in his latest book states in the context of tacit knowledge "Dave Snowden, the best thinker I've found on the subject ..." Dave Snowden has an MBA from Middlesex University and a BA in Philosophy from Lancaster University. He is adjunct Professor of Knowledge Management at the University of Canberra, an honorary fellow in knowledge management at the University of Warwick, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Civil Service College in Singapore, Adjunct Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Extra-ordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria and MINE Fellow at the Universita Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore in Italy. He teaches on various university programmes throughout the world.

He regularly consults at the board level with some of the world's largest companies as well as to Government and NGOs and is an advisor on sense making to the Singaporean Ministry of Defense. He was a member of the British Standards Institute committee on standards for Knowledge Management, Director of Research for the EPSRC program on complexity in the UK, an assessor for the NSF committee on complexity in the US, and lead authority on the EU report on the knowledge society.

He can also be reached at

Useful for Understanding of:

  • Cognitive Edge and the scope of its activities
  • Relationship between cognition and decision making
  • Traditional approach to leadership and decision making
  • Relationship between complexity science and decision making
  • Cynefin framework and its components
  • Traits for the best-ever decision makers

>>Interview with David J Snowden on Decision Making

Originally Published in Effective Executive, IUP
Effective Executive Reference No. 03M-2008-05-06-06
IBSCDC Reference No. INT0066
Year and Month of Publication May 2008
Keywords Cognitive Edge, cognition, decision making, leadership, complexity science, Cynefin framework.

1. Decision Making Case Study
2. ICMR Case Collection
3. Case Study Volumes

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