Engineering vs Storytelling based approaches

The dominant theme of the previous century was trust in experts and in science, who would ultimately solve the problems of the world. When it came to problem-solving, the century favoured an engineering-style approach, based on systemic thinking, that would seek patterns and laws and use them as a basis for decisions. However there are limitations to these engineering approaches.

What contexts do engineering approaches work well?

Engineering approaches work well in systems that are non adaptive and static in nature. Where given the same inputs the processes in the systems produce the same predictable outputs e.g. mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, software engineering etc.

What contexts do engineering approaches fail?

Engineering approaches don’t work well in systems that are complex and adaptive. That is, the same output gives you completely different outputs depending on the state of the system e.g. cultural systems, social systems, financial systems, ecological systems, ai systems etc.

How to make Sense of Systems?

The Cynefin framework is a sense-making tool that we use at Govcrate to make sense of the type of systems we are dealing with and what approaches will work and when. It was developed by Dave Snowden in the early 2000s at IBM and has since been widely adopted in various fields, including business, government, and healthcare.

The framework categorizes problems into five domains: Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic, and Disorder, each requiring a different approach to problem-solving.

A visual representation of the Cynefin Framework

How to apply this to e-government?

Delivering digital government services is becoming increasingly important as technology advances and citizens expect more streamlined and efficient services from their government. However, designing and implementing these services can be a complex and challenging task. This is where the Cynefin framework comes in. As a sense making framework the Cynefin framework helps designers and developers categorize problems appropriately.

For example, a problem may be classified as “complex” if it involves multiple stakeholders with differing needs and expectations. In this case, the framework would suggest that the problem requires a collaborative and iterative approach, with user feedback and continuous improvement built into the service design. Another benefit of using the Cynefin framework is that it promotes a user-centered approach. By understanding the different domains of the framework, designers and developers can tailor their approach to meet the unique needs of users. This can lead to more efficient and effective digital government services, as well as improved user satisfaction and engagement.

In summary, the Cynefin framework is an important tool in the design of digital government services. By helping to categorize problems appropriately and promote a user-centered approach, the framework can lead to more efficient and effective services that meet the diverse needs of citizens.

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