The Future of Communication

A new friend of mine, Elizabeth is doing a PHd on ‘computer mediated communications’ using  ‘co-operative action research’ methods. So yesterday I met up with her in Newcastle to run a workshop with a selection of 24 academics ranging from Professors, researchers, professionals and other PHd students.

Using Cognitive Edge techniques I first split the attendees into groups of eight divided by subject interest to maximise the differences between groups. The three groups were primarily Information/Records Mgt, Buildings and Psychology.

Each group completed a Future backwards as described in previous blogs and told their story to the other groups.

Finally I swiftly introduced them to the cynefin framework with its domains of Simple : Complicated : Complex : Chaos (and I was scarily asked, thankfully at the end, to explain the central domain of Disorder).

I then invited everyone to come up with one thing that we all could do in relation to organisational/business communication that would maximise our chances of achieving our shared HEAVENs and avoiding our shared HELLs  and to place this in the appropriate cynefin domain.

As a facilitator strictly mainaining separation from the subject matter I found the whole session absolutely fascinating: especially:

  • how differently the groups self organised themselves
  • the variance of quantities of hexagons produced
  • one groups obsession with technical products
  • how elaborate the stories became from single hexagons
  • the positioning of final actions on the cynefin and their interpretation of ‘simple’ and ‘complex’.

Anyway, Elizabeth got some really rich material to add to her research, the attendees experientially learnt some new techniques and I got got exposure to the academic side of the North-East where I would love to do more. So you could say a symbiotic time was had by all.



  1. Hi

    Co-operative action research techniques and ideas were originally developed by John Heron and Peter Reason. There is a useful short write up at:

    More information is available at:

    and also the Centre for Action Research Professional Practice at Bath Univerisity.

    The idea is you can establish a group of co-researchers to address a problem and bridge the gap between research and practice. I am working on maximising the value of communications focusing on organisations. 50 people in the UK are taking part as co-researchers and there is about to be a separate group of international researchers set up.

    Ron has been helping gather data for the project by faciliating workshops to develop visions of communication heaven and hell. I am looking out for more groups who want to take part in a workshop.


  2. I wanted to add an additional reflection on the workshop Ron ran last week. It was interesting to note that academics from a wide range of disciplines whilst having some clear differences also had a lot of synergy in their visions.

    The other thing that struck me was the current mood and concerns with the economy were clearly reflected within this workshop, although it was about communication visions. There was a clear change of mood from last year when Ron ran a session with a different group.

    Having taken part in one of Ron’s workshop and also observed a workshop I am fascinated by how much data is gathered in one afternoon. It is also an extremely positive and thought provoking experience.

    Thanks Ron!


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