We started Cosimmetry on January the 1st, 2023.


There are good decisions and there are bad ones. Both look the same to begin with. But as time goes by, we start to see the difference. We either prosper from our foresight or pay for our misjudgements.
What could we be doing now if we hadn’t wasted that money, damaged assets, or lost those opportunities? Is there a way of reducing our exposure to these risks that doesn’t rely on crossing our fingers and hoping for the best?

Boards, governments, committees and teams of decision makers take their responsibilities seriously. They want to make good decisions. More to the point, they don’t want to make bad ones. Common sense tells them that making use of the data around them can help reduce the risk of a bad decision, so people are turning increasingly to data-centric approaches.

But some decision makers face problems so complex and urgent that, even if they are fortunate enough to have plenty of data, they simply don’t have sufficient time to make sense of the situation they are facing before they have to make a decision and act.

This is why we started Cosimmetry: to help teams of military commanders, medical practitioners, or crisis managers for example, across both the public and private sectors.

Cosimmetry develops decision support tools that blend digital technologies like modelling, simulation, data science, and AI, with cognitive approaches like systems thinking and design thinking. We bring together insights from the data with the team’s inherent knowledge and wisdom and - most importantly - a knowledge of how humans actually work to help people solve complex problems and make better decisions in high pressure, high stakes situations. It’s what we call Cognitive Digital Integration, or CDI.

The most challenging problems are complex AND urgent Link to heading

Before entering the private sector two years ago, I had a long career as an operational researcher and leader helping people to make better decisions at the UK Ministry Of Defence. One of the most important things I learned was that the WAY we solve problems varies substantially, depending on the complexity and urgency of the problem.

Some of the things I worked on were complicated (but not complex) problems that had to be solved urgently. For example calculating the safest and shortest route for a vulnerable reconnaissance helicopter behind enemy lines. Complicated problems like these are ones that can be understood and solved using maths. They usually occur again and again in the real world and often in data-rich situations. It’s possible to solve these as a generic class of problem and then create an automated system to solve them for specific situations. My team brought data-centric digital approaches (operational research, optimisation and artificial intelligence) to bear on the reconnaissance helicopter routing problem, automating and improving what had previously only been achievable by human experts. Digital approaches like these can be extremely powerful, saving time, money and lives. This explains why we often hear a call for everything to be data-centric these days. But these approaches only work in certain circumstances, where there is plenty of data, and the problem can be narrowly defined.

I also worked on strategic challenges: more complex problems where there was much less urgency. For example, I helped senior leaders to make multi billion pound procurement decisions, to set strategies and policies in defence reviews, and to design complex systems-of-systems and force structures. Because there’s lots of uncertainty and the far future is hard to define, there’s not much data available to support these decisions. Instead, we bring large teams of people together to discuss and debate, to tap into their knowledge, expertise and creativity. My teams used problem-centric, or human-centric cognitive approaches (e.g. problem structuring methods) to support these decisions. In almost all of these situations, we were blessed with sufficient time, usually months or even years, to build bespoke digital approaches to add rigour to the human-centric parts of the solution.

But what if the problem is complex, and you don’t have much time? I observed that teams in these circumstances really struggled to make well-informed decisions. For example, the continuous rapid planning that takes place within military operations where large amounts of uncertainty and complexity mean we don’t have much data and, even if we did, we don’t have time to figure out how to pull it all together. The analysts (and their evidence) get cut out of the decision making process. We depend heavily on the senior commander’s logic and experience. And a large chunk of Cardinal Mazarin’s luck (often attributed to Napoleon, it was in fact Louis XIV’s Chief Minister Jules Mazarin who said one should ask after a general’s luck rather than his skill).

Gripping soap in the bath Link to heading

We often hear that data science, or AI, or simulation is the solution to whatever problem you might have. It may even be true if you try hard enough and you have enough time. You can, after all, bash a screw into the wall with a hammer. Or drive home a nail with the back of the drill. But it’s messy, expensive, slow, and often a poor solution. But trying to apply data-centric approaches to solve these wicked problems is like trying to grip soap in a bath. The harder you grip, the more it slips away. We all know that we need to surround the soap, to prevent it from escaping rather than grasping it. Wicked problems require teams to collaborate and apply their wisdom to direct the digital approaches, spiralling closer and closer towards the solution. Every question they ask of their models, data or simulations, improves their logic and gets them a little bit closer to solving the problem. They pen the problem in, but rarely do they pin it down before they act.

By working with the grain of how people naturally collaborate in teams, we can help them address these wicked problems faster and more effectively, and often more cheaply.

At Cosimmetry, we have assembled a diverse team of experts in both cognitive and digital approaches to build solutions that enable fast paced, complex decision-making that integrates human instincts and creativity with digital analysis. Our tools reduce the derailing effect of emotions and personal preferences, and the reliance on good fortune, and avoid the false certainty of a precisely wrong digital-only approach. We can help you move faster, with higher levels of confidence, and make the most of your human capital without slowing down the process. We can maintain, even strengthen the link between the wisdom of the decision maker and insights from data.

No more crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. No more lucky generals.

If you think we can help you with the decision-making challenges you are facing, then get in touch at info@cosimmetry.co.uk