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How to Improve Your Innovation Strategy with Causal Layered Analysis (CLA)

The dynamic and ever-changing business landscape requires more than just a base-level understanding to be able to tackle complicated and complex challenges. It demands a strategic way to understand the core of any problem, and this is where Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) comes into the picture.

Let’s learn how CLA can be used for your innovation ideas and decision-making processes to improve them.

What is Causal Layered Analysis (CLA)?

CLA is a multi-layered framework that helps understand issues beyond the surface. It involves four layers:

  1. Litany (Events): Focuses on immediate events and trends.

  2. Social Causes (Systems): Examines underlying social and economic structures.

  3. Worldview (Culture): Explores beliefs, values, and ideologies.

  4. Metaphor/Mindset (Deep Assumptions): Uncovers core assumptions and metaphors.

By analyzing these layers, businesses can identify root causes, challenge assumptions, and understand the cultural narratives influencing their industry.

Why Use CLA?

Deep Understanding and Insight

CLA helps you understand problems in a more comprehensive way and not just on a superficial level. You explore systemic factors, cultural influences, as well as deep-seated assumptions. This helps a lot in making informed and strategic decisions.

Holistic Problem-Solving

By examining issues at multiple layers, CLA provides a holistic view. This approach helps identify interconnected factors and relationships, leading to more effective and comprehensive solutions.

Enhanced Strategic Planning

CLA ensures that you make and implement well-thought strategies as it considers immediate events, systemic contexts, and cultural narratives. This helps organizations anticipate future scenarios, mitigate risks, and align actions with their long-term vision.

When to Use CLA

  1. Wicked Problems: Complicated issues where you are not clear with the solution.

  2. Strategic Planning: Creating strategies for the long-haul.

  3. Innovation Challenges: Working with new and uncertain projects.

  4. Policy Development: Creating effective policies.

  5. Scenario Planning: Exploring future possibilities.

  6. Conflict Resolution: Addressing conflicts that are deep-rooted.

  7. Cross-Cultural Understanding: Navigating differences relating to culture.

  8. Organizational Change: Managing any change happening within organizations.

How to Apply CLA

Step 1: Identify the Problem

Clearly state what it is that you are trying to address. This sets the stage for deeper analysis.

Step 2: Analyze the Litany (Events)

Start with the surface level. Gather data on immediate events and trends related to the problem.

Step 3: Explore Social Causes (Systems)

Examine the systems and structures underlying the events. Identify economic, political, and social factors influencing the issue.

Step 4: Delve into Worldview (Culture)

Understand the cultural context. Look closely at the core ideologies, beliefs, and values that influence how people view and respond to the issue.

Step 5: Uncover Metaphor/Mindset (Deep Assumptions)

Identify the deep assumptions and metaphors that underpin the issue. Challenge these core beliefs to uncover new perspectives and solutions.

Benefits of CLA

  1. Comprehensive Insights: Gain a deep understanding of all the complicated and complex problems.

  2. Informed Decision-Making: Make better and informed decisions based on thorough analysis.

  3. Creative Solutions: Find innovative solutions by challenging key assumptions.

  4. Effective Planning: Create well-rounded action plans that take into account various sides of a challenge.

  5. Risk Mitigation: Anticipate and mitigate any potential risks by understanding systemic and cultural factors.

Challenges of CLA


CLA requires thorough exploration of multiple layers, which can be time-consuming. Ensure you allocate sufficient time for a comprehensive analysis.


Interpreting different layers can be subjective. Invite different stakeholders to engage in the discussion and provide multiple viewpoints and enhance objectivity.

Translating Insights into Actions

While CLA provides deep insights, translating these into practical strategies can be challenging. Use complementary tools to develop actionable plans.

Best Practices for CLA

  1. Engage Diverse Stakeholders: Include various perspectives to enrich the analysis.

  2. Define Clear Objectives: Set specific goals for the analysis.

  3. Use Skilled Facilitators: Ensure that the entire discussion is led by experienced facilitators.

  4. Allocate Sufficient Time: Balance depth of analysis with time constraints.

  5. Document Findings: Record insights and use visual tools to aid understanding.

  6. Integrate with Decision-Making: Ensure insights inform strategic decisions.

  7. Iterate and Refine: Revisit the analysis as new information emerges.

  8. Promote Continuous Learning: Use feedback to improve future analyses.

Case Study: Applying CLA in a Healthcare Organization

To illustrate the practical application of CLA, consider a healthcare organization facing declining patient satisfaction. Initially, the issue is examined at the Litany level by looking at patient feedback and satisfaction scores. This reveals common complaints about wait times and communication.

Next, the Social Causes layer explores systemic issues which includes staffing levels, workflow inefficiencies, and resource allocation. The analysis shows that understaffing and outdated processes are major contributors to the problem.

At the Worldview layer, the organization examines its cultural attitudes towards patient care and employee engagement. It uncovers a disconnect between management's goals and frontline staff's daily experiences.

Finally, the Metaphor/Mindset layer reveals deep-seated assumptions about the healthcare delivery model. Challenging the thinking pattern that "more patients equals better service" leads to innovative ideas focused on quality instead of quantity.

By addressing every layer, the healthcare organization crafts a detailed strategy to improve aspects like patient satisfaction, streamline operations, and create a more inclusive culture for staff.

Ready to Use Causal Layered Analysis For Your Business?

Causal Layered Analysis is a fantastic tool for understanding complicated problems and enhancing innovation. With CLA, you can understand your business challenges better.

First Loop offers several workshops and training programs to equip you with the skills needed for effective use of Causal Layered Analysis.

Give us a shout at 

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