Dave Snowden

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Dave Snowden
Dave Snowden July 2014.jpg
Dave Snowden
Born David John Snowden
(1954-04-01) 1 April 1954 (age 61)
Ongar, Essex, England
Residence Lockeridge, Wiltshire, England
Nationality Welsh
Education BA (Philosophy)
MBA (Financial Management)
Alma mater University of Lancaster
Occupation Academia, researcher, consultant
Employer Cognitive Edge
Religion Roman Catholic

David John Snowden (born 1 April 1954) is a Welsh academic, consultant and researcher in the field of knowledge management. He is the founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge, a consulting company[1] and research network focusing on complexity theory in sensemaking.[2]

Snowden is an Honorary Professor in the School of Psychology at Bangor University and holds an MBA from Middlesex University, and a BA in Philosophy from Lancaster University.[3] He started his working career with Data Sciences Ltd (formerly Thorn EMI software), acquired by IBM in 1996. He was the Director of IBM's Institute for Knowledge Management, and the founder of the Cynefin Center for Organizational Complexity.[4][5] Snowden developed the Cynefin framework, a practical application of complexity theory to management science.[6][7][8]

Early life and education[edit]

Snowden was born in Ongar, Essex, England, to Welsh parents. When he was three, his parents returned to Wales; and Snowden grew up in Mold, Flintshire, where he attended the Alun School.[9] In 1975, he was awarded a degree in philosophy from the University of Lancaster, where he was a member of County College. He then worked for the Student Christian Movement for three years. He obtained an MBA degree in financial management, studying part-time, from Middlesex University.

Professional life[edit]

In 1984, Snowden joined Thorn EMI Software - the consulting, systems integration and outsourcing service division of Thorn EMI plc, a major UK electronics company. He joined Data Sciences Ltd[10] when Thorn EMI Software division became the subject of a management buyout and demerged to Data Sciences in 1991.[11] He held several positions while at Thorn EMI Software/Data Sciences.

In 1996, Data Sciences was acquired by IBM;[12] and he became a director in the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, and then founded their Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity.[3][4][9] The Cynefin framework helps managers determine the prevailing operative context, enabling appropriate choices and decisions.[13] Snowden explains the choice of the term Cynefin /kʌnɨvɪn/: [it is] a Welsh word that signifies the "multiple factors in our environment and our experience that influence us in ways we can never understand".[13] Cynefin has a meaning similar to 'habitat' and is also used "as an adjective used to convey 'acquainted' or 'familiar'."[14][15]

Snowden is the founder, and currently the Chief Scientific Officer, of Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd, a company based in Singapore providing business consulting services,[16] and a research network focusing on the development of the theory and practice of sensemaking.[9][17]


Snowden was awarded an honorary chair in the School of Psychology at Bangor University in 2015. He joined as a visiting professor at the University of Pretoria in 2007.[18] He is currently an adjunct at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University; and a visiting fellow at Warwick University, Nanyang University, the Università Cattolica and the Singapore Management College.[5][19] He has held visiting positions at the universities of Canberra and Surrey.

Scholarly works[edit]

Snowden is the author of several articles and book chapters including the development of narrative as a research method, role of complexity theory in sensemaking, application of complex adaptive systems theory to a range of social issues and knowledge management.[2] He has written a column on the trends in technology, social issues and the scientific use of narrative; called Everything is fragmented.[20] In 2008, he and co-author Mary E. Boone won the Academy of Management award[21] for an "Outstanding Practitioner-Oriented Publication in OB" for a Harvard Business Review article[13] on Leadership.

He is an editor-in-chief of the journal, Emergence: Complexity and Organisation and a director of funding allocation for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council on the subject of emergence.[9][13][22]



  1. ^ http://www.bloomberg.com/profiles/companies/0196350Z:SP-cognitive-edge-pte-ltd
  2. ^ a b "Interview with David J Snowden on Decision Making". IBS Case Development Centre (IBSCDC). May 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "LinkedIn profile - Dave Snowden". LinkedIn. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Bio from the book "Knowledge Horizons: The Present and the Promise of Knowledge Management". Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Biography: Dave Snowden". Copenhagen - International Software Development Conference 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Snowden, David J. (July 2000). "Cynefin, A Sense of Time and Place: an Ecological Approach to Sense Making and Learning in Formal and Informal Communities". Conference proceedings of KMAC at the University of Aston.
  7. ^ Snowden, David J. (2000). "Cynefin: a sense of time and space, the social ecology of knowledge management".
  8. ^ Despres, Charles; Chauvel, Daniele (October 2000). Knowledge Horizons: The Present and the Promise of Knowledge Management. Butterworth-Heinemann.
  9. ^ a b c d "Biography of David Snowden" (PDF). Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "THORN,EMI plc" (PDF). Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "Data Sciences (Company Profile)". Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "IBM to acquire Data Sciences". Strait Times. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d Snowden, David J.; Boone, Mary E (1). "A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making of the circumstances they face". Harvard Business Review Journal (November 2007).
  14. ^ Williams, Kyffin (2001). The Land & the Sea. Llandysul: Gomer. ISBN 9781859025536. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  15. ^ Tennis, Joseph T. "Three Spheres of Classification Research: Emergence, Encyclopedism, and Ecology". Information School. University of Washington, Seattle. Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  16. ^ http://www.bloomberg.com/profiles/companies/0196350Z:SP-cognitive-edge-pte-ltd
  17. ^ Vinson, Jack (31 October 2007). "Dave Snowden interviewed by Jon Husband". Knowledge Jolt. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  18. ^ http://www.up.ac.za/media/shared/Legacy/sitefiles/file/1jaarboeke2010/iteng8desfinal.pdf
  19. ^ "Biography: Dave Snowden" (PDF). The actKM Forum 9th annual Conference 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  20. ^ Snowden, Dave (2009). "Everything is fragmented". KMWorld Magazine (Information Today). Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  21. ^ "Outstanding Publication in OB". Organizational Behavior Division of the Academy of Management. OBWeb. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  22. ^ "E:CO - Editorial Board". Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence (ISCE). ISCE. 22 December 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 

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