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The Complexity Matters blog features the Thursday Complexity Post as well as other complexity inspired news items.


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What’s Deep and What’s Dark on the Web?

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Not Everyone Knows Dark from Deep

Andy Greenberg writing at Hacker Lexicon, the Wired explainer series, notes that even the well regarded news program 60 Minutes is confused, having described the Dark Web incorrectly as a "vast, secret, cyber underworld” that accounts for "90% of the Internet."

Greenberg says the Dark Web isn't particularly vast, it's not 90% percent of the Internet, and it's not particularly secret. It's a collection of websites that are publicly visible, yet hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them. So anyone can visit a Dark Web site, but it can be difficult to figure out where they're hosted—or by whom. Most Dark Web sites use the anonymity software Tor, though some use a similar tool called I2P. Both of those systems encrypt web traffic in layers and bounce it through randomly-chosen computers around the world so it's hard to match origin and destination of web traffic. Online marketplaces such as Silk Road2, the illegal drug site recently shut down by federal investigators, and other black market sites selling contraband, are usually part of the Dark Web. Wikileaks created a dark site to accept anonymous leaks.

The Deep Web is a collection of all sites on the web that aren't reachable by a search engine. Those unindexed sites do include some in the Dark Web, but they also include much more mundane content like registration-required web forums and dynamically-created pages like your Gmail account.

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New View on Phase Change: It’s Not Simple

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Monday, November 17, 2014

Transition from One State to Another Is Quite Complex

Scientists say new discoveries about phase change require revised thinking about one of the basic building blocks of science and the way students are taught about some basic principles of the behavior of matter.

Researchers at Princeton University, Peking University and New York University examined phase change—the transition of matter from one state to another—at the molecular level and discovered it was far more complex than has previously been known. Their study appears in the journal Science. An NYU press release explains that when researchers used computers to look at metal changing from a solid to a liquid state, they found a complex process in which change can follow multiple pathways.  Mark Tuckerman, a professor of chemistry and applied mathematics at NYU and one of the study's co-authors said that is contrary to previous understandings. "This means the simple theories about phase transitions that we teach in classes are just not right," he said.

The study shows change happens on multiple and competing pathways and involves at least two steps. In a first step, local defects occur on one pathway at a single lattice point in a crystalline solid. In a second step, these defects, which are very mobile, randomly migrate and can form large, "disordered defect clusters." Tuckerman says these clusters grow from the outside in, rather than from the inside out as was previously thought, and over time become large enough to cause transition from solid to liquid. On a different pathway, the defects grow into a thin line of disorder called "dislocations," which also eventually cause transition from solid to liquid. The research, arising from a ten year study of complex behavior in complex systems, is also described in Science Daily and R&D Magazine.

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Olympian Mind-Body Workouts for Gamers

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Monday, November 17, 2014

Intense Training for Professional Gamers

As video games morph into a spectator sport complete with viewer stadiums and corporate sponsorship, serious gamers who sit and push buttons train like Olympic athletes, with diets chemically analyzed to provide the right proportions of nutrients, physical workouts, brain mapping, yoga classes, and special exercises to soothe their throbbing wrists.

A New York Times story by Conor Dougherty describes how Matt Haag, a professional videogame player, trains intensively to maintain his prowess playing Call of Duty, a popular war game series in which players try to shoot one another. Haag has 1.5 million YouTube subscribers, a lucrative contract to live-stream his daily game sessions online, and he shares his every move, whether it's smashing buttons or mind-body preparations, on social media.

His training sessions are sponsored by Red Bull, the energy drink. Stories about Haag are featured on the Red Bull website. Watch a Chicago Tribune video in which Haag, who is making a six figure income at age 22, praises the strict upbringing provided by his parents and urges his fans to study hard in school.

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Interaction and Networking Vital in Global Business

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, November 13, 2014

China's Haier Group, an appliance maker with a fast growing global market, interacts with customers to tailor its products to distinctive needs. It makes large washing machines for Pakistani robes, small ones for delicate garments, and a durable one for large hoses for washing vegetables on Chinese farms. It also sells water purifiers designed to remove specific pollutants in each of the 220,000 communities across China.

In an interview with Strategy+Business editor Art Kleiner, Haier CEO Zhang Ruimin explains how he took the top post at the company in 1984, studied business management and philosophy, and used his insights to transform a troubled operation into a leading producer of household goods and services. Kleiner writes that the Academy of Management invitation to Zhang to give the keynote address at its 2013 annual meeting signals that China "had produced its first philosopher-CEO." Zhang says Haier has a culture of continual self-questioning and entrepreneurial spirit.

After the arrival of the Internet Age, Zhang explained, the company eliminated hierarchical structure, got rid of most of middle management, shed 4,000 jobs, and created 2,800 small county organizations with seven or fewer people each. As the company becomes platform based, each part of the organization makes autonomous decisions, reaching out to customers, potential employees and collaborators. He wants to make the operation truly "borderless," and says in his vision the company no longer has an inside and an outside.

"We are using Internet technology to connect everyone," he told Kleiner. "As a Haier executive, my goal is no longer to be a maker of home appliances but to be an agent of interaction and networking among people who might be anywhere."

"In the long run," he said, "there won't be any company employees to speak of-only the Haier platform." His idea is, "Whoever is capable, come and work with us." That could include entrepreneurs, people who want to partner with the company, and customers engaged in the process of product development. As an example, he cites the Air Box, a Haier device that lets people use smart phones to control their environment inside a building by connecting to heating, cooling and air filtering devices. Customer input guided the company in having air conditioning units that test and monitor air cleanliness, and the company brought in Samsung and Apple to help meet user requirements. All Haier products are integrated with the internet and Zhang asserts "If a home appliance can't communicate with the Internet it shouldn't exist."

Zhang said the idea of a company as platform represents a stark contrast from past management practices. "It should allow us to bring in and integrate greater quantities of resources-all contributors will be able to enter unhindered," he said, adding that operating this way, "we at Haier are no longer the ones directing things. We are the glue binding everything together." He describes an interactive water quality platform as an example of how the company can perform that difficult task: it can collect and incorporate insights from water treatment companies around the world and resolve users' individual needs through direct interaction with them.

A Harvard Business Review blog by Mark Bonchek and Sangeet Choudary says in today's networked age, business competition is increasingly about having the best platform. The authors describe elements for successful platform strategies, with examples, and what they call platform thinking.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently told all employees that "At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world." Read his speech here. Read Kleiner's Strategy+Business piece here.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  economy  innovation 

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Better at Getting Better: A Learnable Skill

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, November 06, 2014
Updated: Thursday, November 13, 2014

Professional athletes used to sell insurance, tend bar and find odd jobs during the off seasons. Today they are likely to spend every off season hour working on their game, often with the aid of science, technology and expert coaching. The idea, according to James Surowiecki, is that no physical skill is a static quality. Skills need ceaseless attention and practice to evolve toward the highest possible level.

While athletes have always worked out, Surowiecki thinks the present obsessions with perfecting every aspect of performance is a growing trend that extends beyond sports. He calls it a performance revolution, aided by scientific knowledge and new technological tools, that has pervaded many organizational and industrial arenas. In a New Yorker article, Surowiecki says there used to be a general attitude that athletes who make it into professional sports already have the skills they need. Today, he says, innate athletic ability is "taken to be the base from which you have to ascend."

Athlete using dynavision board dynavisioninternational

It's not enough to eat right and stay in shape, he says. You need PhDs in several fields examining specific skills and the science behind them. Sprinters need straight line explosive power. Baseball players need rotational power. And all sorts of devices have been developed to measure and improve speed, strength, reaction time, while keeping track of how various bodily functions perform during exertion. For example, the Dynavision D2 consists of a large board with flashing lights that a trainee has to slap as they appear, while also reading vocabulary words or math equations displayed at random. It's advertised for use in rehabilitation, as well as for improving hand eye coordination and reaction time. Basketball players have to learn footwork, positioning, and shooting skills, and the NBA Dallas Mavericks also give players Readibands to monitor how much and how well they are sleeping.

A Smithsonian Magazine story by Erica Henry explains how Olympic athletes and their coaches are using new apps like Ubersense an AMPSports to get real time data on the performance of skiers, bobsledders and other competitors. No more lugging big three ring binders, spreadsheets, or heavy video equipment. Using the new apps, every split second of what an athlete does is recorded. Coaches can pull up video, charts and comparative analysis on smart phones or tablets with the click of a button, pinpoint gaps in strength or skill, then tweak a workout plan and send it right to the athlete's phone. Ubersense co-founder Krishna Rachandran told the Smithsonian that members of elite teams are pushing their limits, and "we are able to take what we have learned from them and make it available to the masses."

Surowiecki cites similar drive in cerebral endeavors. Powerful computer programs allow chess players to practice against the best, and continually review and analyze their strategies. He says training of classical musicians has improved, and because more highly qualified musicians are competing for a shrinking number of jobs, standards for performance are rising higher than ever. He says in the last three or four decades American businesses and organizations have learned to make products better and employees more productive.

The ethos underlying performance revolutions, he writes, is captured by the Japanese concept of kaizen, or continuous improvement, brought about by relentless examination and effort. It requires continuous elimination of waste, correction of error and teamwork. Airline safety and small unit military performance have greatly improved, he says. But some fields have not. Why? Surowiecki says emphasis on speed and volume has actually weakened customer service. He asserts that the performance revolution has had less impact on medicine and education because training of doctors and teachers, for the most part, has not undergone continuous improvement. He says teachers in particular get little help to continuously improve. He thinks the idea of the "natural born teacher," just like the notion of innately talented athlete, needs to be scrapped. Instead, he writes, we need to embrace the idea that teaching skills can be taught, learned and continuously improved. He advocates training techniques used successfully in other countries, where teachers can study their own work and that of colleagues and have opportunities to get better at getting better. Read Surowiecki's article here.

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Environments and Mindsets for Complex Change

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, October 30, 2014

Balinese farmers have grown rice in paddies irrigated through an intricate network of canals and aqueducts built around hundreds of tiered water temples for more than a thousand years. Priests in the temples and hundreds of grower collectives known as subaks evolved a well orchestrated collaboration to control pests and make sure water was fairly distributed.

In the 1980s, international development organizations introduced chemical fertilizers and re-engineered growing and harvest patterns with the goal of growing more rice. The water temples and subaks were disregarded. Several years into the program, rice yield had plunged and rats and other pests were proliferating. In his extraordinary book Aid on the Edge of Chaos, Ben Ramalingam tells the story of the subaks in Bali and the dynamic self-organization that had allowed growers to cooperate in management of complex issues related to soil quality, pest control, crop yields, and rainfall and to make continual adjustments as local conditions required. The subaks also performed social, legal and spiritual functions.

Researchers from the Santa Fe Institute found that the farmers cooperated on the basis of their own dominant needs. Those upstream were most worried about pests, and those down stream worried about water shortages. Ramalingam explains the researchers used ecological simulation models to show how humans were reshaping the ecosystem, and how cooperative behavior emerged over time. With the water temples as the nodes, he writes, the subak networks were "a particular form of social organization shaped by a process of cooperative agents co-evolving in a changing environment." By 2012, he says, the government of Bali had arranged that the subaks would be preserved in perpetuity as a vital part of the country's unique cultural, social and economic farming system.

Ramalingam believes an understanding of complexity science and complex adaptive systems can help cultivate new mindsets that will enable policy makers and program designers to increase effectiveness as they try to improve health and economic conditions, reverse adverse impacts of climate change, and build peace in war ravaged areas. He provides lucid examples and commentary on the work of many complexity scholars, including John Holland, Stuart Kauffman, Jane Jacobs, Herbert Simon, Joshua Epstein, a scholar of agent based modeling, and Warren Weaver, a mathematician who wrote an influential paper on "Science and Complexity" in 1948. He quotes Friedrich Hayek's 1974 Nobel acceptance speech in which the economist said we can't acquire enough knowledge to master complex events, so we need to use the knowledge we can get to "cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment" for growth the way a gardener does for plants.

Ramalingam cites several innovative development and humanitarian efforts that draw upon the concepts of complexity: they include dealing with epidemic outbreaks in Asia, water sharing in Bhutan, subsistence farming and urban change in East Africa, disaster responses in Southern Africa, and industrial production globally. This informative book is filled with memorable stories, well-turned phrases, extensive research, and a wide-ranging exploration of the insights of complexity science. While the focus is aid, the usefulness extends to just about any field.

In a section on positive deviance, Ramalingam describes the work of Monique Sternin and the late Jerry Sternin in reducing childhood malnutrition in Vietnam. The Sternins pioneered the use of positive deviance (PD) in social and behavioral change. They helped parents living in impoverished villages discover that some of their neighbors had healthier kids despite having no additional resources. The parents of the healthier children were gathering shrimps, crabs and greens that were free but generally considered unsuitable for children, and they had different mealtime practices. Ramalingam also notes the successful use of PD in reducing MRSA rates and in improving business operations. Plexus Institute led an initiative in which several hospitals using PD processes dramatically reduced the incidence of healthcare associated infections. In an interview with Ramalingam, Monique Sternin noted Plexus Institute's role in developing the science and theory behind PD and scaling up the work.

image from wikipedia

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  culture  ecology  environment  organizations 

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Technological Paradox: We Do More Knowing Less

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, October 23, 2014

The ill fated Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 killing 228 people, remains one of the most perplexing and significant modern airline disasters, according researchers. In a Vanity Fair article, William Langewiesche explores the paradox that technological advances that have greatly improved airline safety over the last 40 years have also increased the likelihood that pilots won't know how to handle a crisis if one arises.

A series of small errors, the story says, "turned a state of the art cockpit into a death trap." As the plane approached a line of thunderstorms at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic in the middle of the night, the captain was taking a nap-which was an habitual practice and allowed by rules-and two co-pilots, each thinking he was in temporary command-were at the controls. Langewiesche reports that a French investigator observed after the fact that "Sometimes two is less than one." Because of an accumulation of ice crystals outside the plane, the pilots temporarily lost valid air speed data, alarms sounded and control panels showed a slight dip in altitude and an impossibly low speed, though the airspeed itself was unaffected. Auto pilot disengaged. The flying co-pilot yanked the hand control causing a steep climb, then tried unsuccessfully to level the plane. Stall alarms sounded. The two copilots, panicked and communicating poorly, used controls in ways that counteracted each other. Fear and confusion reigned. The captain awoke but couldn't reverse the fatal descent into the ocean. Some passengers may have been aware of turbulence, but there was no screaming or panic, according to records recovered.

Langewiesche concludes that because we've designed auto-piloted planes that virtually anyone could fly, the average knowledge base that pilots need has declined. "It seems we are locked into a spiral in which poor human performance begets automation, which worsens human performance, which begets increasing automation," he writes, adding the pattern is common to our time, but is acute in aviation. The next disaster will involve different planes, airlines, circumstances, and culture, he suggests, but will almost certainly "involve automation and we will be perplexed by it."

We all rely on technological equipment and gadgets, and we know how to use them for our own purposes without knowing much about how they work. Are we, as a result, inclined to skim over the surface of knowledge our survival might occasionally require? Can we become simultaneously more and less sophisticated? In his New York Times piece "Curses, Fooled Again!" Peter Funt writes that "the omnipresence of technology has reached a point where people will accept almost anything." His topics wouldn't scare a frequent flier, but his observations are pertinent to our relationship with technology. His father, Allen Funt, started "Candid Camera" on TV 60 years ago. When Peter Funt produced new "Candid Camera" shows this summer, he worried that today's tech savvy audiences wouldn't fall for some of the ridiculous pranks he planned. But they did. He and colleagues showed salon customers an "untanning machine" they said would suck dark pigment off skin in seconds. He told shoppers they would be charged a $10 in-store-fee for not buying online, and they bought his line. He went to a dentist's office, gave patients iPads, then told them they'd have to conduct their own exams online. Several were ready to inject their own Novocain before he confessed the joke. Posing as a sanitation worker, he told residents in Queens, N.Y., they had to separate household trash into eight color coded bins including one for "chicken waste." He gave New Yorkers petitions to recall state officials, and most supported the recall, even though all the names on the petitions were phony. In California an actress posing as a candidate got dozens of campaign signatures without identifying any positions, a party, or her last name.

Funt says while his father used to distract people, now they do it themselves fiddling with cell phones and other devices, comfortable with their exceptional electronic capabilities, and giving less than full focus to what's going on around them. So people are still friendly and good-naturedly willing to be sucked into "Candid Camera" stunts, he observes, but they're also more vulnerable to personal mishaps and genuine scams.

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From the Front Lines: Kissing the Banana Trunk

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, October 16, 2014
In parts of Sierra Leone and much of West Africa, people have traditionally kept the bodies of loved ones in their homes for several days after death as mourners wash, caress, dress them and pray over them. Because the corpses of Ebola victims are highly contagious, the tradition has been a key vector in spread of the disease. Burial teams from the Red Cross and other organizations have been attacked trying to interfere with care of the dead. Some families have even hidden corpses to make sure proper rituals can be performed.

In a Psychology Today post, Steven Hayes, PhD, Foundation Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Nevada, writes that behavioral science is as important as medical science in discovering alternative rituals that honor both culture and safety.

Four years ago Beate Ebert, a German psychologist and others formed Commit and Act, a nonprofit in Sierra Leone devoted to bringing psychotherapy to people traumatized by a decade of civil war and violence. Hannah Bockarie, a social worker fluent in Krio, the local language, led workshops, evaluated through a partnering agreement with the University of Glasgow, to train indigenous counselors and health care workers. When Ebola hit, the organization was in a unique position to help. Hayes explains that Commit and Act, already known in the community, was able to educate people about Ebola and the practices needed to halt its spread. Bockarie also led local groups through therapeutic sessions that helped them come up with alternative burial customs that honored their values while allowing health care workers to safely dispose of bodies.

"A beautiful example one group came up with was substituting the corpse with a banana trunk," Hayes writes. "The body of the infected and now diseased person is burned. Relatives keep a banana trunk at home, and perform all the customary rituals on it, including kissing the banana trunk before burial. In the end the banana trunk is buried."

Hayes says he is awed and inspired by "a pathway forward" that could not have come from the outside, and that could not have been produced by military intervention nor dictated by foreign aid workers.

He explains that the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson's Evolution Institute combined with Commit and Act to use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) along with principles from the late economist Elinor Olstrom, who won a Nobel Prize in 2009 for works showing the skill of indigenous people in protecting common resources.

People who face a problem are the best poised to find ways to solve it. That's a key insight of Adaptive Positive Deviance. After the disclosure of the Ebola infection of a second nurse who worked at the Dallas hospital where a man died of the disease, health officials have aimed to promote caution without feeding panic. The second nurse flew on a commercial airline before she had symptoms and the CDC has asked all 132 passengers on her flight to self-monitor and call a CDC hotline. Some politicians propose a ban on travel to the U.S. from Western African countries. In Texas, a community college announced it was rejecting students from any country with confirmed cases of Ebola.

Officials don't know exactly how the two Texas nurses were infected, though multiple news reports have suggested infection control protocols in place at the hospital were insufficient for Ebola. National Nurses United, a nurses' union, said nurses at the hospital complained of confusion, frequently changing policies and protocols, inadequate protection from contamination and spotty training. Indeed the CDC has now recommended extra levels of protection for healthcare workers caring for Ebola patients, as well as detailed guidelines for the potentially hazardous process of removing contaminated protective gear. CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden has said the most important protection is for a site manager to oversee workers as they put on each piece of personal protective gear, and as they remove and properly dispose of each one. One hopes front line workers will be engaged in finding the best ways to adhere to new protocols.

When Plexus Institute led a multi-year initiative to stop MRSA infections, the protocols in use at the time differed from what is being recommended now for Ebola. But MRSA infection rates dropped dramatically when front line healthcare workers collaborated to developed methods that would achieve the most consistent adherence to the known protocols. The late Jasper Palmer, a patient transport worker at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, devised a way to remove protective gear safely while also reducing the volume of contaminated trash. It became known as The Palmer Method. Watch here.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  culture  healthcare  MRSA 

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Pageantry of Opera Technologically Enriched

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, October 09, 2014

Imagine not being told to turn off your cell phone at the opera. Think of audience interactions with special apps providing bursts of synchronized color on the screens of hand held devices. And imagine special balcony seating where technologically inclined opera buffs can live-tweet their experience.

Youngmoo Kim is an engineer and music scholar who believes technological innovation and artistic innovation are naturally linked and he is finding new ways to bring opera into the twenty-first century.

Kim has taken a sabbatical from his post as director of Drexel University's ExCITe Center to collaborate with Opera Philadelphia in exploring how emerging technology can be woven into all phases of operatic production. As he explained to Maiken Scott at, "Music and technology have always been a part of my life. I just couldn't decide which one I loved more, so I've continued to do both." Kim double majored in engineering and music and also has a degree in vocal performance practice. The ExCITe team developed LiveNote, an award-winning app for hand held devices that guides opera goers through the musical, artistic and historical elements of what's happening in some Opera Philadelphia performances.

People habitually carry so much tech around with them, Kim observed, that it's "a little bit anachronistic" to keep asking that devices be turned off. When Opera Philadelphia presented a free outdoor performance of "Barber of Seville" projected onto massive screens at Independence Mall, the audience of 6,000 got a new technological treat. Kim and his team designed a web app that changed the color of every audience member's smart phone screen on cue and in unison.

Kim notes operas over the centuries advanced innovations such as pyrotechnics, trap doors, and imaginative lighting effects, so technology, opera and audience interaction are a natural fit. Before conventional darkened theaters existed, operatic audiences were part of the pageantry. Kim thinks traditional nineteenth century staging can make an opera seem remote today. We read "Hamlet" and "Macbeth" because some human conditions are timeless, he said, and he wants to find ways to recreate that timeless emotional connection between opera and modern audiences. He believes technology will enrich engagement.

At Opera Philadelphia's performance of "Ainadamar," the balcony had a social media section for bloggers and Twitter enthusiasts.

Earlier this year Opera Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute participated in a global experiment as a live performance of the robot opera "Death and the Powers" was simulcast from The Dallas Opera to more than ten locations in Europe and the U.S. The opera, by American composer and inventor Tod Machover of the MIT Media Lab, tells the story of Simon Powers, a dying billionaire who can't bear losing his family. He decides to upload his emotions, thoughts and personality into "the system," from whence those elements of him become absorbed into household objects that interact with loved ones after his death. Audiences at the simulcasts received secondary audio, video and multimedia through a specially developed app downloaded to their handheld devices. Audiences could experience the opera from the viewpoint of "the system," or a robot, and in addition had the opportunity to influence visual aspects of the performance. Read a review here, a discussion here and learn about the technology here.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  innovation  music 

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Tragedy Inspires Choices for Change

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, October 02, 2014

During his service in the U.S. Marines, Jake Harriman saw war and conflict in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A horrifying experience in Iraq changed his view of the world and the course of his own life.

He was a Special Operations platoon commander waiting for supplies on a highway to Baghdad in 2003 when Americans fired warning shots at an approaching car they feared might be full of explosives with a driver on a suicide mission. An Iraqi man leapt from the car and ran toward the Americans, waving his arms frantically. An Iraqi military vehicle suddenly roared to the scene, sprayed his vehicle with bullets, and sped away. The man, accompanied by Harriman, ran back to the car to find his wife and two children fatally shot. The Americans didn't know it at the time, but the Iraqi was trying to escape the effort of Saddam Hussein, then still in power, to coerce poor farmers to sabotage coalition forces in exchange for food.

Describing those events to The Christian Science Monitor, Harriman said,

"Something awoke inside of me-an anger that burned and grew. That day I vowed to devote my life to giving people choices and hope where none previously existed."

Five years later he founded Nuru International, an organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty. To prepare for this task, Harriman applied and got into Stanford University's graduate school of business, where he studied economics, computer modeling, and how to "design for extreme affordability" to get goods and services to the poorest of the poor. The World Bank defines poverty as living on $1.25 a day. Harriman looked deeper. Incorporating ideas of economists Mahbub ul Haq and Amartya Sen, Nuru views extreme poverty as lacking choices necessary to attain basic human rights. That's more than avoiding starvation. That means addressing health, education and seeking conditions that foster resilience in the face of catastrophe.

Stanford Professor James Patell, who taught Harriman, told The Monitor Nuru differs from many anti-poverty efforts in the developing world in that its goal is sustainable projects that will be operated by local communities, and in its commitment to bringing its model into war-torn areas. Harriman explains in his blog that the work began in Kenya because he and colleagues wanted to build and test their prototype in a relatively stable country before trying to introduce it into a chaotic failed state or conflict zone. "We are attempting to build a high impact integrated development model that is completely self-contained-that is it can scale on its own-funded by capital produced in-country and led by nationals equipped to innovate and effectively manage large scale projects."

Harriman said that Nuru seeks local community participants who are true "servant leaders" who work to distribute power rather than consolidate it. Nuru is a Kiswahili word that means light. Harriman was recently honored as a veteran entrepreneur in the White House Champions for Change program.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  leadership 

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