"When we understand the principles of complexity, such as agent interaction, attractors etc. then we can apply that theory to a novel situation with some confidence of a good outcome. It will not replicate past success, but will be appropriate to the current context."— Dave Snowden, This is the dawning of the age of praxis?, Cognitive Edge Blog (January 22, 2009)
Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized.
In the context of Cynefin, the need for praxis is central: combining sound theory with practice while privileging neither.
|“||much which purports to be theory is just a set of generalised recipes based on limited cases||”|
|— Dave Snowden, https://thecynefin.co/of-practical-wisdom/|
The practices are expected to be inspired by sound theory. A series of observations about a limited set of cases is not considered as sound theory. Observations from practice are useful, but a lot of modern management books misuse them. They often present a very limited and/or highly selective set of cases. From a correlation between these cases, they've derived an explanation after the facts. While these explanations could be useful, they are not sufficient to prove causation, and hence they can't prove a sound theory. A sound theory requires not only observing "what worked and what didn't", but also scientifically proving that the explanation of why something works is valid.
With praxis, we expect observations of "what worked and what didn't work" to lead to a review of validated knowledge from sciences and humantities, to explain why something works. If there a sound theory the explains why something works, we now have a praxis: we can apply this insight in a new situations.
Evolution of Cynefin through praxis
Cynefin itself grew out of "entanglement" of theory and practice. The framework was not created based on a single study and then propagated. The process of its creation is described as a complex mix of "reading combined with practice". The reading can be understood as researching the theory, while the practice involved teaching the framework and synthesize the ideas that came from that back into subsequent versions of Cynefin.