Sensemaking and the swamp-metaphor

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2024-02-13 10:00:14

One of the core tasks in enterprise-architecture is sensemaking – making sense of what’s going on within some context. And one of the key methods we can use for this is to make some kind of mental-map of what seems to be going on in the context – hence ‘context-space mapping‘ (CSM).

Over the years I’ve used many different frameworks and models for this process. In essence, once we understand how context-space mapping works, we can use almost any kind of model we’d come across in business or elsewhere – SWOT, Six Sigma, Cynefin, Causal Layered Analysis, Porter Value-Chain, PDCA, OODA, Five Element, Five Whys or just about anything else.

Yet one frame I keep coming back to – and which underpins much of my recent work on SCAN and the like – is a variant of one of Carl Jung’s models, a simple two-axis matrix of ‘truth’ versus ‘value’, and ‘inner’ versus ‘outer’. I would probably have first come across it in the late 1960s or early 1970s: for example, I know I used as a core guide in the skills-research that led to my my first book, way back in 1976.

For me, though, the real breakthrough was its adaptation as the ‘swamp metaphor’ in the anonymous book SSOTBME, which I first came across somewhen in the late-1970s. I described this metaphor a couple of years ago, within an earlier post about background; but given its relationship to SCAN, it seems worthwhile to pull that description back from the archives and re-publish it here.

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