Resilience in Leadership

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Portfolio Description

Using SenseMaker®’s narrative journalling to understand how leaders are building resilience in these times

The Cynefin Centre, collaborating with the UNDP, launched an experiment in
narrative journaling geared towards leaders.

Participants were self-selecting as they responded to a blog post
and an email sent out to Cognitive Edge Network Members, and signed up to take part. Future research would look to address this with a wider, more diverse sample.

  • 652 journal entries were submitted
  • 121 people signed up
  • 27 nationalities took part

Key insights from triads

  • Societal concerns: There is strong agreement that we need to Adapt and Transform, not Accept, the challenges that COVID-19 throws at us.
  • Future implications: What’s required for Transformative Radical Change is reconsidering Habits and Customs.
  • Personal resilience: Responding by Experimenting and Learning is related to reconsidering Habits and Customs.




Emergent theming was conducted on the narratives and 2 dominant themes were defined. Excerpts of stories, verbatim, around these themes are included in the report.

Theme 1: Transformation and Learning are associated with Motivation,
Confidence, Excitement, Empowerment and Clarity

Theme 2:  There is Worry and Disillusion about how the response to Covid-
19 foreshadows the coming climate and other crises

Portfolio Details

What we often see in a crisis is a lack of sufficient cognitive, political, and experiential diversity in assessing the implications of the crisis, which can undermine our ability to make good decisions. For example, there is often a bias towards well-polished analysis that, by its nature, can only ensue after something has happened. This polished analysis drowns out outliers in the hope of finding significance. On the other hand, this approach can be used to monitor the ebb and flow of data in real-time, outliers are seen as potential signals to explore rather than inconvenient data points to remove, and the raw, unprocessed, and disintermediated data is kept in its original form for as long as possible in order to hold on to its meaning (UNDP’s Regional Innovation Center is diving into capturing exactly this type of data with partners from Governments in Asia Pacific). This framework offers a coherent mechanism to ‘entangle’ stories from different sources (policy makers, citizens) and identify seeds of novel practices and learning as they happen.

Dave Snowden (the Cynefin Centre) and Millie Begovic (UNDP)