Cognitive Edge in Government

We have started to explore the use of Cognitive Edge methodologies in government. This is an interesting approach using complexity science and other natural sciences as a base of theory and may, much like social computing, change how we think about our relationships, how we communicate and how we share information with our colleagues, stakeholder organizations and citizens.

This theory-grounded approach to ‘sensemaking’ is based on the principles of complex adaptive systems.

I recommend that anyone involved in program design, implementation or evaluation take a look at their work (you can Google “Dave Snowden” as well) and see how it fits.

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Ken Waters


Have you taken his course(s)? Have you tried any of Snowden’s methodologies? I took one in January and would like to try some things out this summer. Just wondered if you have any real world experience with it?

Ken Waters

Ray MacNeil

Hi Ken,

I have taken the accreditation, twice as it turns out, because I organized a session here in Halifax after taking it in Montreal. So we have about 12 fed and provincial staff who are now accredited here in Halifax.

Have done some work with Sue Stephen in BC Gov, and we are preparing a set of pilot projects here in Nova Scotia to see where we go from here. I am quite familiar with several of the methodologies including the sensemaker process (narrative capture leading to analysis using their software).

Where are you located?


Ken Waters

I am located in Maryland in a suburb of DC. Thanks for the lead on Judith Innes — am reading the CALFED project. great example of an emergent approach to governance. I do evaluation, planning, group facilitation etc. Am working with our agency Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on some thorny issues they have with some states and other Fed agencies. Want to try to encourage the CALFED approach rather than the rulemaking approach. It is hard to get people to try new things.

Ray MacNeil

Barry Schwartz, noted psychologist, ranted on T.E.D. that rules ‘are insurance policies against disaster, and they prevent disaster, but when they ensure is mediocrity.” Love that quote…..

(Hyperlinks don’t seem to be going in properly. Tried a couple of times, but there’s something wrong so you may have to copy and paste)….

I’ve been passing the CALFED article around here also. I’ve been exchanging emails with David Booher (one of the authors). Am quite interested in their work.

And there are others. Glenda Eoyang will be up here this summer for a week at the Authentic Leadership In Action summer institute. You might be interested in her work as well. She knows Snowden and has blogged on his webpage.

Here’s Glenda’s homepage…

Here’s the ALIA page….

Lots going on here. Again, would be pleased to let you know how our work with Snowden progresses. We have to get going on that soon, but are in a provincial election and I didn’t get my budget stuff sorted out before the election was called. Damn….