Ordinary Clay, Not Gold and Silver #Cynefin21

Cynefin Image from the Cynefin 2020 Book

Clai cyffredin nid aur ac arian. Being ordinary doesn’t feel like much of a goal does it. It’s certainly not aspirational in the sense of the ‘happy clappy’ vision statements you see in lots of corporate documents.

But ordinary and mundane are essential. This is the stuff of everyday life, the fabric of society, the oil between the cogs, asking for help and knowing someone will be there. Part of how we make sense of it all.

The mundane and the ‘ordinary’ are the things that really matter. Without them, nothing else would work.

Last week I was at something that for me wasn’t ‘ordinary’. It was the Cynefin21 Book Launch. For some people a book launch might be fairly routine. For the amazing cat herder Marion Kiely it was her second book launch that day.

But this book launch stood out because the Cynefin Community had written the book. 46 contributors, authors, illustrators, editors, cat herders… sometimes performing multiple roles – extra ordinary (extraordinary).

Towards the end Dave Snowden who created the Cynefin Framework in 1999 was reflecting on what we had been saying. One of the points he made was that the Cynefin Framework was being used in places where ‘none of us, from this Community, had ever been…’

There were people using the Cynefin Framework who had never been in contact with ‘us’,… this was the measure of something useful and sustainable. People can pick up the Cynefin Framework and quickly work out how to use it to make sense of their situations. They don’t need a manual, recipe book, training course or accreditation. It just works. This is where the ‘be like ordinary clay rather than gold and silver’ description fits.

A Welsh Sentiment. I don’t want to irritate anyone by getting ‘too’ Welsh and sentimental about that statement, but it does resonate with me – deeply.

Maybe it’s part of the Welsh psyche. Centuries of a difficult relationship with powerful neighbours, deeply embedded non-conformist religious practice, always being slight outsiders and the underdogs has shaped us. And, if the cap fits… wear it.

There’s a tendency in Wales to be; low key, not flashy, and a bit understated. You don’t go around ‘shoving your ideas down people’s throats’. If you’ve got something good, practical and it’s going to help, people will work that out for themselves. Like the clay mugs you use every day, not the silver and gold goblets kept in display cabinets.

So, ‘ordinary clay, not gold and silver’, ‘clai cyffredin nid aur ac arian’ is very Welsh sentiment, for a very Welsh Framework. Happy 21st Birthday Cynefin.

Penblwydd hapus Cynefin yn 21 oed

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

1 Response

  1. Love it! There are some cracking old Welsh phrases like this, that hold meaning far beyond a simple translation. My favourite ‘‘fel caib a rhaw’ translates as ‘a pick or a shovel’ but means to know who you really are and what you’re here for. And of course ‘clai cyffredin nid aur ac arian’ adds something deeper, that even if you think you’re very ordinary, that’s fine too.

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