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Plexus ACTION 2013
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Plexus ACTION 2013: Tales, Tools, and Tactics

April 18-20, 2013 - Silver Spring, MD

Thank you Plexus Community!

Plexus Action 2013 Conference Summary from on Vimeo.

Listen to the Plexus ACTION 2013 song co-created by conference attendees and Michael Gold of Jazz Impact.

MP3 File


We were thrilled to have Barbara Siegel and Amanda Lyons volunteer their graphic recording services at the conference. Here are the images they created.

Graphic Recording images (pdf)

Amanda Lyons is also blogging her experience with her conference sketch notes.

Catalyst presentations in pptx format (will add as available)

John Kenagy presentation

Stephen Thomas presentation

June Delano presentation

The Simplicity Beyond Complexity PechaKucha video from Bill Smith 

ac·tion· ar·y [ak-shuhn- er-ee] adjective

1. given to or characterized by proactivity

2. a visionary who moves from idea to application

3. tendency to take on big challenges

This is a conference for people who want to take ideas off the white board and into the world.

  • Hear first hand TALES from the field about innovative approaches to solving big problems
  • Experience TOOLS fellow practitioners are using now
  • Design TACTICS for your own work you can take home and apply

Join us for lively interactions in a mash up of modes including Liberating Structures, Open Space, PechaKucha, and TEDTalk-style catalyzing input for our conversations. Join a diverse community of thinkers, practitioners, educators, leaders, learners, researchers, change agents and idea junkies for three days of interaction, conversation, and fun!

Plexus Institute has created a rich social network of people and organizations intrigued with how insights from the new science of complexity might apply to a wide range of challenges. This conference is an opportunity to bring current and new members of that community together to learn from each other, try out different ways of thinking, make new connections, hear from leading thinkers, and play with new ideas.

"Of course we need better information and insight,
but what we need most is the capability to act on it.

- Unit Head, Government, Hong Kong SAR
from the IBM 2012 CEO study, Leading Through Connections

"From beginning to end, the Plexus conference was a mind bender. And fun too! I loved how it reminded me never to overlook how many different perspectives there are, and it helped me figure out how to better put them all to work on "wicked" challenges. In philanthropy, folks can spend a lot of time in their heads. It was great to learn new ways to use all our senses for creative solution-making. Plus, the crazy mix of people who attend are just flat out cool." - Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation


1:00-5:30 Pre-Conference Workshops
7:00-9:00pm Conference Opening with Michael Gold of Jazz Impact
Connectivity and innovation through the experience
of jazz. Michael Gold’s Jazz Impact brings live
music and interactive engagement to Plexus 2013.

9:00 – 5:30 A day full of lively interactions using
Liberating Structures, Open Space, and catalyst talks.
7:30-9:00 Evening program - PechaKucha!

9:00 – 4:30 Turn ideas into action that you can
take home and apply immediately.

Pre-Conference Workshops

Pre-Conference Workshop A: Ready, Set, Launch: Getting complex projects, initiatives, and movements off the ground with Lisa Kimball

Pre-Conference Workshop B: Practical Management of Complex, Unpredictable Work: How to make positive deviance the simple norm versus a heroic action with Jeff Cohn and John Kenagy. Led by two physicians, this workshop will have applicability for groups working in both healthcare and non-healthcare fields. Participants will acquire skills that will immediately impact on group and individual performance and interactions, in support of organizational goals.

"I traveled from South Africa to attend Plexus 2012. An unknown event, in an unknown city. I met people who have become part of my world, and are shaping my world-view. Their generosity and their hospitality are unrivaled. If something about Plexus has caught your eye, find a way to say "yes." It will bring a lot that is new and powerful into your world." - Craig Yeatman, South Africa


Chris J. McGoff, founder of The Clearing, Inc and author of The Primes: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem, has spent the last 30 years helping governments and organizations to engender new, transformative possibilities for a better world. Through his work and research, Chris has developed a comprehensive approach to helping organizations drive to consensus and solve wicked problems, those involving the highest levels of stakeholder and technological complexity. At the World Bank he helped the organization create a new formula for aid allocation that minimized the problem of corruption and renewed the World Bank’s power to address global poverty. Chris’s client list includes most of the agencies of the U.S. federal government as well as a wide range of organizations including IBM, AARP, Consol Energy, DuPont, the United Nations, and Boeing. Chris has facilitated strategy sessions for over 10,000 government and industry professionals. Prior to launching The Clearing in 2009, Chris founded his first company, Touchstone Consulting, in 1991, which grew to $40 million in revenue and 200 employees and was bought by SRA International Inc. in 2005. Prior to founding Touchstone, he designed and built IBM’s Decision Support Center and initiated the commercialization of work group technology there. Chris has a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Scranton and an M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Texas Tech University. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Graduate School of Public Policy.

Louise van Rhyn is an organization change practitioner with a focus on large scale change in complex social systems. She received her DMAN in Ralph Stacey’s doctoral program on complexity and organizational change where she explored the contribution of external facilitators in process change in organizations. She has worked with diverse local and global organizations, across all sectors, in many countries. She is the founder of Symphonia for South Africa, a group of organizations committed to sustainable transformation in people, teams, companies, organizations and communities throughout the world. Through Symphonia, Louise works to mobilize citizens to become actively involved in addressing the education crisis facing South Africa. She has also initiated the innovative School @ the Centre of Community leadership development process that creates an opportunity for business leaders and school principals to develop their leadership skills in a co-learning partnership.


Mary E. Boone is president of Boone Associates located in Essex, CT. She is a leading authority onorganizational communication, leadership development and large-scale interactive meetings. Her firm’s client list spans a wide array of public and private organizations – such as IBM, NASA, JPMorganChase, ConocoPhillips, AARP, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the United States Army. Boone's ideas have received widespread attention. The Harvard Business Review article she co-authored with David Snowden entitled "A Leader's Framework for Decision Making" won the Emerald Citation Award in 2011 which is awarded to the top 50 articles from the top 300 management publications worldwide that have proven impact since their publication date, and in 2008, they won an Academy of Management award for the same article. Among those quoting from and praising Boone’s work are Tom Peters, The New York Times, CNN, CNBC, National Public Radio, The Financial Times, Investor’s Business Daily, Information Week, CIO Magazine, Chief Executive Magazine,and Industry Week. Boone’s books include ManagingInter@ctively: Executing Strategy, Improving Communication and Creating a Knowledge-Sharing Culture. (McGraw-Hil) and The Information Edge(co-authored with N. Dean Meyer, Dow Jones). Another of her books, Leadership and the Computer (Prima Publishing), was selected as "required reading” for Congress by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Successful Meetings Magazine recommended her as one of 25 hot speakers, and in the summer of 2009 featured her on the cover as a "strategic thinker."

Stephen B. Thomas, PhD, is professor of Health Services Administration in the School of Public Health and Director of the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland in College Park. One of the nation's leading scholars in the effort to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, Dr. Thomas has applied his expertise to address a variety of conditions from which minorities generally face far poorer outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and HIV/AIDS. He is principal investigator of the Research Center of Excellence on Minority Health Disparities, funded by the NIH-National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. He is also principal investigator, with Dr. Sandra Quinn, of the NIH National Bioethics Infrastructure Initiative: Building Trust Between Minorities and Researchers awarded in 2009.


Andrew Bennett is an inspirational magician. According to Andrew, we all yearn to create something – a great organization or team, a strong family, a book, a new product or innovation, a service. To do that, to be a creative force, you need to understand…A few core magic principles and the illusions that get in your way. This is what The Magic of Andrew Bennett is all about. Through a mix of powerful stories, humor and magic, Andrew Bennett inspires individuals and organizations to be a creative force. Andrew shows you how to make magic – how to make what you want appear, what you don't disappear, and how to transform what gets in the way. He's a unique combination of experience and skill. Andrew is a former corporate executive who started his career as Ross Perot's personal assistant. Eight years later he led a $65 million business in Australia. He has Over 20 years as a leadership and organizational culture consultant and executive coach around the world. He has been a Magician for over 40 years. Member of The Magic Circle, the oldest and most prestigious society of magicians in the world.

June Holley has been weaving economic and community networks for more than 20 years. After twenty years as executive director of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (, she stepped down to devote her energies to helping communities around the globe form Smart Networks by training and supporting Network Weavers. She helps clients use Smart Network Analyzer social network mapping software to understand and enhance their networks. Her recent Smart Networks projects have involved communities, regions, statewide collaborations, healthcare and hospital systems, national learning and innovation networks, and large corporations.

Keith McCandless, principal of the Social Invention Group, is a highly regarded consultant with expertise in strategic planning, leadership, and organizational development. He has been instrumental in the growth of the Conversation Café movement, which began in Seattle and is spreading internationally as a means of stimulating wide-ranging communication about socially vital issues. Keith helps organizations move forward through uncertainty with innovative approaches including scenario planning, generative dialogue, Chaordic design, communities-of-practice, appreciative inquiry, open space technology, positive deviance, graphic facilitation, and rapid prototyping. Over the last ten years, Keith and Henri Lipmanowicz have worked as partners to develop Liberating Structures. Born in Cincinnati Ohio, he holds a Masters in Management of Human Services from Brandeis University in Boston and a BA from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.


June Delano has had a front row seat on change as a founding partner of PIVOTAL, an Asian-based global leadership consulting firm working with leaders to effect the highest level of performance and purpose in their lives and their work. She was previously a leader of the executive development practice at Monitor Group, running enterprise-level projects with clients in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Earlier in her career, she led Worldwide Learning & Development, including executive and organization development for Eastman Kodak. She is known for her deep understanding of the relationship between strategy and executive learning, as well as ground-breaking approaches to leadership development. She is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and a Director of Meridian International Institute.


Dr. John Kenagy knows healthcare as a physician, executive, scholar, advisor and patient. In addition to 20 years experience as a vascular surgeon, he has been Chief of Surgery, Chief of Staff and Regional Vice President for Business Development for a multi-state, not-for-profit healthcare delivery system. And, most importantly, he has been a patient. His frustration with current methods was fueled by an injury – he suffered a broken neck in a fall from a tree. Critically injured, he discovered that his recovery depended on the efforts of dedicated individuals working in an unpredictable and often unresponsive system. Searching for answers, he earned a management degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and was appointed Visiting Scholar at Harvard Business School. Kenagy’s Harvard research included developing disruptive innovation healthcare strategy with Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen and translating to healthcare the drivers for success in transformational companies like Toyota, Intel and Apple. The result is Adaptive Design; ® a set of revitalizing choices and opportunities that cultivate adaptability in the everyday work of the organization and it’s people. He authored Designed to Adapt: Leading Healthcare in Challenging Times to be the guidebook to more care for less cost. The American College of Healthcare Executives named it the 2011 Book of the Year. Dr. Kenagy’s work and his soon-to-be-released, web-based, on-line learning course Experience Adaptive Design enable everyone from the executive team to the frontline to get patients exactly what they need at continually lower cost. It’s the way to thrive in 21st Century healthcare.


Plexus PresidentJeff Cohn, MD, MHCM, connected with Plexus in 2006 when he led the Positive Deviance/MRSA Infection work as Chief Quality Officer at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Jeff subsequently worked as part of the Plexus team supporting change in several other institutions working on reducing healthcare-associated infections. In 2011, Jeff joined the Plexus Board of Trustees and in January 2012 became Board Chair. In 2005 he earned a masters degree in health care management, a program designed for physician leaders, from the Harvard School of Public Health. He was a practicing hematologist/oncologist, and for a time was involved in clinical research, representing community oncologists in the development of new clinical trials for patients with lymphoma. At Einstein, Jeff became the first Chief Quality Officer for the network. During his tenure in that position, Einstein won two successive awards for quality from the Premier healthcare alliance, a network of over 2,500 hospitals in the US. He created and implemented the hospital’s palliative care program and continues to have a passion for enhancing the quality of care at the end of life. He led Einstein’s early work in implementing CUSP, the Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program. He learned the model working under Peter Pronovost, MD, medical director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care, and got Einstein involved in the CUSP learning network started by Johns Hopkins.


Lisa KimballLisa Kimball, Plexus Chair of Learning Programs, is an actionary known for her ability to help organizations tackle complex challenges by changing the conversation about problems and potential solutions. She has worked for more than 30 years with clients including government agencies, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions to design and facilitate organizational change and development efforts involving diverse stakeholders. Lisa pioneered the development and application of Liberating Structures, a mash up of open source methods that make high engagement practical, exciting, and fun! She has deep experience facilitating processes from Positive Deviance, Open Space, Design Research, Appreciative Inquiry, and Dialogue. An early adopter of social network applications and founder of Group Jazz, Lisa speaks all over the world about leveraging networks for social change and innovation. Her doctoral research in cognition and learning focused on problem solving strategies of senior executives in complex systems. She was part of the research team that developed the selection and training framework for the Federal Senior Executive Service and is currently working with officers in the US Army to develop their capacity to use Liberating Structures at the core of their leadership approach.

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