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How to Thrive in Chaos

How to Thrive in Chaos

John F. Kennedy once remarked,

Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

H. William Dettmer used this quote in an interesting way – commenting,

“In business, successes are usually trumpeted, while failures are normally buried in obscurity. Consequently, it may be difficult to find practitioners willing to advertise that we failed to achieve positive results with – insert name of your chosen methodology of the month.”

Dettmer used this to point out how we blindly use popular management tools and techniques in problem-solving. The problem is that we might be using a technique ill-suited for the environment we are in. So, how can we identify our environment in order to apply the right tool? One way to do this is to use the Cynefin framework.

A Sense-Making Framework

    Developed by Dave Snowden (not Edward Snowden!), the Cynefin framework is a conceptual way to assist decision makers in making decisions. The word Cynefin (pronounced KUN-iv-in) is a Welsh word for habitat. Dettmer informs us that it is a way to help us visualize and understand how systems operate within a variety of domains. Let’s take a look at how he describes this framework.[1]

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    The external environment describes a continuum from ordered to unordered. The continuum is further divided into general contexts, or domains. It is a sense-making framework helping us make and understand where a system exists among the domains. It helps us identify the correct tools, approaches, processes, and methods that are likely to work in a given domain.

    It is not intended to categorize as most categorization matrices imply some value judgement about which cell is better. No one cell is more valuable than the other.

    Five Domains of the Cynefin Framework

      The Cynefin framework is essentially five domains, where four are associated with environmental factors or systems – the fifth domain touches the other four.

      1. Simple
      2. Complicated
      3. Complex
      4. Chaotic
      5. Disorder

      We can use this framework to identify the state of our knowledge and the state of available information. Another way to look at this is by identifying the state of what is certain to what is uncertain. An understanding of this will assist us in determining which domain we exist in as an organization.

      1. Simple

      In the Simple domain, systems are stable and we can see clearly the cause-and-effect relationship. Little uncertainty exists in this domain and we are able to make decisions by simply categorizing things.

      State of Knowledge and Information:

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      • The information is available and we have it.
      • As an organization, we have asked questions and have found the right answers.
      • The “right” answer is easy to identify.

      Example of this domain:

      • Government departments

      Tools to use in this domain:

      • Typical top down command and control system where employees follow a simple standard operating procedure.

      2. Complicated

      This is the domain of experts. In the Complicated domain you will find that there is no single “right” answer. Dettmer informs us that the philosophy of continuous process improvement is rooted in this domain.

      State of Knowledge and Information:

      • We know the information we need, but we don’t have the answers.
      • We have asked but have not received an answer.

      Example of this domain:

      • Auto-manufacturing

      Tools to use in this domain:

      3. Complex

      The best way to determine if you have a Complex or Complicated system is to figure out if you have an emergent or complex adaptive system. Dettmer points out that a complex system will have large numbers of components or agents interacting (as well as learning and adapting).

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      State of Knowledge and Information:

      • The information we need is out there somewhere, but we don’t know what we’re looking for.
      • We have not asked, but the answer is out there.

      Examples of this domain:

      • Stock Market, Insect Colony, Insurgency

      Tools to use in this domain:

      4. Chaotic

      This is the realm of the unknown. Here you will find that possessing an understanding of cause-and-effect is almost useless. Dettmer informs us that the recipe for disaster is to wait for patterns to emerge (thus failing to act). In this domain, decisions must be made with no time for reflection. This is also the domain for “moonshot thinkers” and for those who seek to completely destroy (not in a negative way) or change a system or organization.

      State of Knowledge and Information:

      • We don’t know what we don’t know.
      • We have not asked because we don’t know what to ask.

      Example of this domain:

      • Attacks of September 11, 2001

      Tools to use in this domain:

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      5. Disorder

      The fifth domain is Disorder – which touches every other domain. This is the realm of the unknown. An organization can slip into this domain at any point in time and from any domain. It is also extremely difficult at times to recognize if you are in this domain. Dettmer provides the following advice if you find your organization has slipped into this domain,

      “The way out of this realm is to break down the situation into constituent parts and assign each to one of the other realms. Leaders can then make decisions and intervene in contextually appropriate ways.”

      Flow of Ideas

        Dave Snowden, developer of the Cynefin framework, discusses the dynamics an organization goes through within his framework and provides the following advice. [2]

        • To enable the partially constrained flow of ideas, we need to ensure there is good connectivity within the organization, but without central control. Leaders need to stand above the system but not engage with it.
        • As coherence starts to clump, we then shift by recognizing the structure and process of our organization.
        • A pattern of destruction to enable rebirth should be built into your system. After a period of time we should break up the formal group allowing a new knowledge to be created. We should break all links allowing new links to form.

        This last point is the one that struck me the most. I thrive in chaos and love to create new things. When I see destruction, I see it as a good thing. I see it as a paradigm shift and a way to bring forth something radically new.

        This brings to mind a couple examples that could use complete destruction, thus bringing about a paradigm shift in the way we think about them. The first one is that of climate change. The second is a topic I write about extensively – the foster care system. We need to completely destroy how we think about the two and how we operate within them.

        Lastly, I will leave you with Albert Einstein ‘s advice,

        We shall need a substantially new way of thinking if humanity is to survive.

        Featured photo credit: By Akshat Rathi via qz.com

        Reference

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        Dr. Jamie Schwandt

        Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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        Last Updated on September 18, 2020

        How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

        How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

        Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

        Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

        Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

        1. Meditate

        We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

        Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

        Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

        Fortunately, meditation can help.

        Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

        While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

        Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

        However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

        2. Get Plenty of Sleep

        If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

        If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

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        If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

        Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

        If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

          Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

          Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

          • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
          • Don’t eat too late
          • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

          Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

          However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

          3. Challenge Your Brain

          When was the last time you challenged your brain?

          I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

          To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

          Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

          There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

          • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
          • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
          • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

          If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

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          Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

          4. Take More Breaks

          When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

          At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

          However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

          Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

          One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

          This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

          When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

          It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

          Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

          5. Learn a New Skill

          I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

          “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

          From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

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          Let me give you an example of this:

          Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

          Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

          The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

          Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

          It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

          Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

          If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

          6. Start Working out

          If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

          Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

          Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

          Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

          Interested in getting started?

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          Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

          • Join a gym
          • Join a sports team
          • Buy a bike
          • Take up hiking
          • Dance to your favorite music

          7. Eat Healthier Foods

          I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

          This applies to your brain, too.

          The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

          Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

          Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

          If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

          • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
          • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
          • Nuts – Improves memory
          • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
          • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

          Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

          Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

          Final Thoughts

          I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

          You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

          But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

          More on How to Improve Memory

          Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

          Reference

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