Aporia Insights

These crowd-sourced thoughts and insights are from Aporia discussion events I’ve run at a few events.

Agile Xpertise meetup – 2020-05-20

  • A useful metaphor for understanding aporia is to consider stacking a dishwasher. At the start of the day, when the dishwasher is empty, you won’t know what will need to be washed, so you’re in aporia. But aporia is different from having no idea, or doing nothing, or any of your choices being of equal value. Therefore when stacking the breakfast items, you’d be wise to space them in a way which keeps as many options open as possible, without having to re-stack later in the day. So being in aporia doesn’t mean to remain passive.
  • An approach to utilising aporia in relation to the other domains is to throw into the framework all issues, then work out where best to place each issue. You are likely to find that although many issues may start in aporia, the majority of them will have a home in other domains. This method is called Four Table Contextualisation
  • Aporia has relevance to how we naturally learn
  • In the early days of the COVID outbreak, many governments operated in the Chaotic domain; they chose to act first knowing that there’ll be collateral damage. For example, loosening the criteria for financial support would provide immediate stability for many people and businesses, and yet such a policy would also be open to greater inappropriate use and fraud.  
  • The handling of COVID occurs in many domains at the same time. Investigating the biology of the virus may be manageable in the Complex domain. At the same time in the early days of the outbreak, many nations did not know sufficiently its epidemiology, so they responded in the Chaotic domain by enforcing lockdown in an attempt to halt its distribution. The consequential slowing of infection gave many governments the leeway to operate in aporia.

Piano Berlin meetup – 2020-05-19

Aporia, with Confused, has replaced Disorder as the name of Cynefin’s fifth domain
  • Aporia is the biggest opportunity for change
  • To ‘escape’ aporia, we need to know what information is needed before moving into a different domain
  • People and organisations need resilience (e.g. financial reserves, optionality, inventory) to stay in aporia for a long time, and not be tempted to make a decision earlier than necessary
  • Regarding COVID, since some Asian countries previously dealt with SARS, their populations know that a COVID vaccine cannot be discovered quickly. So, compared to some western countries, these Asian countries are wise to keep their populations in aporia by not speculating when a vaccine may be ready
  • It’s often said politicians can either be right, wrong or uncertain; to be uncertain is the weakest position. However to be uncertain, and not make a choice, can be a legitimate stance (i.e. remain in aporia)