Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, July 02, 2014
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pictures may record more than milestone events and the little incidents
we love to remember. New technology may help doctors identify rare
genetic conditions by analyzing ordinary digital photos of faces. Facial
recognition software may even be useful in identifying presently
unknown rare disorders with symptoms that baffle families and doctors.
A New Scientist story by Andy Coghlan
explains that while genetic tests exist for common conditions, such as
Down's syndrome, genetic tests for many more unusual conditions aren't
available because the gene variants that cause them haven't been
discovered. A story in The Independent by Charlie Cooper explains that 30 to 40 percent of genetic disorders involve some kind of change to the face or skull. Software developed at Oxford University
by medical researchers collaborating with the university's Department
of Engineering Science was initially "trained" by analyzing thousands of
photos of people diagnosed with eight genetic disorders. Coughlin's
story explains that the computer "learned" to identify each condition
from a pattern of 36 features in each face.
who designed the software with Oxford colleague Andrew Zisserman,
believes it can help family doctors and general pediatricians make
preliminary diagnoses of health conditions that may have puzzled them.
In the future, Nellaker told The Independent, a doctor anywhere
in the world should be able to take an ordinary smartphone picture of a
patient, run a computer analysis, and find out which genetic disorder a
patient is likely to have. The technology isn't meant to replace
traditional diagnoses, but to aid it by giving doctors information not
otherwise available to them.
Alastair Kent, director of the Genetic Alliance UK, a charitable organization dedicated to helping people with genetic disorders, told New Scientist
that because few physicians are skilled in the diagnostic use of facial
analysis, families often wait years to learn the cause of their
children's problems. Many of the combinations of facial characteristics
that have diagnostic significance would be undetectable to a layman.
Oxford database now has nearly 3,000 photos, and the software can
recognize 90 disorders. As the database grows, the software will enable
researchers to study groups of patients with undiagnosed problems who
share similar facial features and skull structures. That could allow
researchers to identify presently unknown disorders and the explore the
gene variants that cause them, which could potentially improvement
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, June 19, 2014
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music carries you melodically into dreams and reveries, and some
conveys sadness, joy or a sense of peace. Then there's music that
bounces along with skips and hops and you just have to dance, snap your
fingers or tap your feet. Certain kinds of rhythm induce an almost
irresistible urge to move.
A few years ago, Maria Witek,
a neuroscientist at Aarhus University in Denmark, who studies emotion
and loves music, created an online survey to try and figure out what
music impels people to start swaying and dancing. She pursued the
subject and described her findings to Michaeleen Doucleff in an NPR interview.
Pharrell Williams' song "Happy," which was just chosen as the new advertising theme song for the New Jersey Lottery, and The Meters "Hand Clapping Song" are examples of what her research shows. So is Chuck Berry's"Rock and Roll Music," especially the version he performs with Tina Turner. Try and sit still when you hear these!
says when the rhythmic structure has gaps, or spaces in the underlying
beat of the music, we are provided with "an opportunity to physically
inhabit those gaps and fill those gaps with our own bodies." In a recent paper,
she suggests that has to do with the way we hear music and the way the
brain processes it by anticipating its structural patterns. In her
survey, Witek asked respondents to listen to drumming pieces that ranged
from simple rhythms with regular beats to very complex patterns with
many gaps where beats might have been expected. She found people all
over the world agreed on which patterns made them want to dance. They
were the ones in between the very simple and the highly complex. People
wanted to physically engage with the rhythm when there was enough
regularity to perceive the beat and enough complexity to make it
interesting without being totally unpredictable. They danced to the
music that was layered with predictable beats and syncopated ones, she
said. The layering can be provided by numerous musical combinations of
claps, drums, other instruments, voice, and lyrics.
In a New York Times essay on rhythm, Nicholas Wade
says Darwin thought that before our human ancestors developed speech,
they discovered that musical notes and rhythm could charm potential
mates. He says Darwin thought that music's origins in courtship explain
why it can arouse strong passions. Wade notes that in his 1997 book How the Mind Works, Harvard scholar Steven Pinker
called music "auditory cheesecake"-a happy accident we enjoy though it
has no survival value. But Darwin theorized, according to Wade, that
anything that enhanced courtship promoted survival by helping to
perpetuate parental genes in a new generation. Read Wade's essay here. Thanks to Bruce Waltuck for the NPR story.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, June 12, 2014
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who think they will die young are more likely to do dangerous things
such as using drugs, fighting, and having unsafe sex and
self-destructive things such as dropping out of school.
counselors and other youth workers have often heard teens-especially
boys from impoverished neighborhoods-say they don't expect to live
beyond 25 or 30, but the impact of that perception has only recently
been studied. And the research is cause for both alarm, because the
feeling is so prevalent, and hope, because envisioning a future life can
inspire more beneficial choices.
University of Minnesota researcher Iris Borowsky, MD, PhD, and colleagues found that one in seven adolescents interviewed believed they would die before age 35,
and that this belief strongly predicted future risky behavior. Kids who
envisioned a long life were more likely to graduate from high school
and stay out of trouble. Boroswky and colleagues analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health,
a sample of more than 20,000 kids in grades seven through 12. A
fatalistic belief in early death was most common among minority kids
from poor families: 29 percent of adolescent American Indians, 26
percent of teen African Americans, and 21 percent of teen Hispanics
reported they expected to die young, compared with 10 percent of their
Alex R. Piquero,
a criminology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, studied
1,354 youth offenders charged with serious crimes from Maricopa County,
Arizona, and Philadelphia over a seven year period. In the beginning,
Piquero asked all the subjects how many years they thought they would
live. His team found those who expected to die young were more likely to commit more crimes, and more serious crimes, and go to prison. Those who anticipated long lives were less likely to re-offend. Piquero's study "Take my License and All that Jive, I can't see ...35" appeared in the journal Justice Quarterly.
The Minnesota study of general population youngsters found no
relationship between actual early death and expectation of dying young.
But by the end of Piquero's study, 45 youngsters had died of non-natural
causes-violence, suicide or other tragedies.
Eduardo Porter, writing in the New York Times, describes a school program designed to give kids a vision of living many future years. Tim Jackson works at Harper High School,
in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago's South Side. As a
counselor for the Becoming a Man program, he tries to train boys to have
a "visionary goal" worth saving themselves for. It's a daunting task,
given the neighborhood's gangs, joblessness and violence. In 2013 alone 29 current and recent students were shot. In one recent weekend in Chicago three young men were fatally shot, and at least 25 people-many of them teens-suffered gunshot wounds.
danger is just one reason youth are fatalistic. Porter writes that
today's rich-poor income gap is bigger than it was at its peak in the Roaring
Twenties, raising suspicion that economic opportunity is available only
to the lucky or unusually talented. A National Bureau of Economic
Research paper shows young men of low socioeconomic status are most
likely to drop out of school when the incomes of families at the bottom tenth of
the income distribution are furthest from the incomes of families in the middle.
Studies have also shown that teenaged girls are most likely to become
pregnant when the gap between the bottom and the middle is biggest. Porter says that creates a condition researchers call economic despair, which means opportunity isn't just out of reach, it's unimaginable. Porter tells how Jackson opened a recent a session
with his students with a story. He was stopped at a traffic light when a
car occupied by three angry drunk men rear ended his car. Should he
confront them? He didn't. He walked across the street and called police.
His students figured out how he made that decision: he thought about
his stake in the future.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, June 05, 2014
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who studied the myriad social exchanges among students, teachers,
principals and parents that make up daily life in schools came up with a
measure they called social trust. They found that social trust
is a key resource for educational reform, and that the level of
relational trust is an even stronger indicator of improvement in a
school than new teaching practices or curriculum design.
Anthony Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching,
and colleagues spent 10 years looking at relationship dynamics in 400
Chicago elementary schools. They found that in schools with low social
trust, something as routine as arranging a kindergarten graduation can
ignite controversy. In schools with strong relational trust, collective
decision making happened more readily, reform initiatives diffused more
easily, and children's academic outcomes improved. Bryk recorded an
eight percent increase in student reading skills and a 20 percent
increase in math skills over a five year period in the schools where
relational trust was high. In an ASCD article
on educational leadership, Bryk calls relational trust the connective
tissue that binds individuals together to advance educational
achievement and student welfare.
The Chicago school work is also cited by John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell, in a Stanford Social Innovation Review article
as an example of the kind of new philanthropic strategies needed in
today's complex world. "Relational dynamics are one of the primary
reasons interventions in complex social systems are so unpredictable,"
according to the authors. "They explain why building system fitness can
accelerate the spread of evidence informed solutions."
philanthropy doesn't fit the realities of complex social change, they
assert, and philanthropists need to adopt an emergent strategy that that
allows for constantly evolving solutions uniquely suited to the time,
place and participants. The authors say McGill University management
professor Henry Mintzberg
was one of the first to capture the dynamic of an intended strategy
bumping against complex realities, "triggering further evolution in
strategy." Emergent strategy, which has to be both rigorous and
flexible, "requires a constant process of 'sensing' the environment to
ensure resources are applied where opportunities are the greatest." Such
sensing also enlarges understanding of how various parts of a system
change in relation to each other and external events, the authors write.
"The concept of sensing and leveraging opportunities without any
certainty about the outcome," these authors say, "is at the core of
The three complexity principles the authors say are needed for emergent strategy are
the strategy and broad participation, working with positive and
negative attractors, and improving system fitness. Fitness requires
improving knowledge, effectiveness, and resilience and building social
trust among all parties.
complex systems are unpredictable, they say, "sources of energy or
convergence within the systems, known as attractors, can be observed and
influenced." In social systems, attractors can be people, ideas,
resources or events that lead a system to move toward, or away from, a
The Rockefeller Foundation,
which in 2008 launched a $42 million initiative to improve the lives or
poor and vulnerable people throughout the world through impact investing,
has also practiced an emergent approach. Impact investing was a new
field the foundation had begun to develop earlier by convening a group
of 30 organizations that created a network of relationships among
boards, committees and memberships. This group was joined by 70 more
organizations from profit and nonprofit investment funds, universities,
consulting firms, international development organizations and government
agencies. Over the years, the initiative evolved to attract new
players, new ways for organizations to become involved, and new
collective action platforms. By 2010, program staff members recognized
changes in U.S. and UK public policy-a new attractor that could be
amplified-and formed an Impact Investing Policy Committee, which
ultimately led to $2 billion in government funding.
With thanks to Liz Rykert for the Stanford Social Innovation Review article. Read Bryk's article "Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform" and more on impact investing here.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Updated: Thursday, May 29, 2014
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in our fellow humans is eroding, according to polls and surveys, and
nearly a third of Americans reportedly don't even completely trust their
A Pew Survey on social trends found that the Millennial generation,
people ranging in age from 18 to 33, have emerged into adulthood with
considerably lower social trust than earlier generations. Asked the
long-used social science survey question "Generally speaking, would you
say that most people can be trusted, or that you can't be too careful in
dealing with people?" only 19 percent of millennials say people can be
trusted. By comparison, 31 percent of Gen Xers, those born 1965 to 1980,
40 percent of Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964, and 37 percent of those
born in 1945 or before say people can be trusted. The poll, conducted in
February, also showed millennials are less attached to religious and
political institutions than older people.
An AP-GfK poll conducted in 2013 suggests most Americans are suspicious of each other in daily interactions. Fewer than one third
said they trust clerks who swipe their credit cards, other drivers on
the road, or strangers they meet traveling. Only a third of those
responding to the AP-GfK poll said they thought most people could be
trusted. In 1972, half of adults surveyed said others were trustworthy.
Only 69 percent of Americans questioned for a World Values Survey
reported that they completely trust their family members. That places
the U.S. near the bottom of the 55 countries surveyed on that question.
Family trust was reported to be lower only in Ghana, Lebanon, Azerbaijan
and the Netherlands, where just 59 percent of respondents reported
complete trust in their families. Three quarters of Americans think war
is sometimes needed to obtain justice-second only to Pakistan. And 16
percent of Americans surveyed say they carry a gun or other weapon for
security. That sounds low, but it places the U.S. third in the world,
behind only Libya and Lebanon. See the Washington Post Wonkblog charts on world values.
scientists and political analysis say trust is necessary for a civil
society-it helps people work together for the common good, and promotes
cooperation among people who have different beliefs and backgrounds. April Clark, a Purdue University
political scientist, says distrust promotes rancor and incivility.
Surveys appear to confirm we have an increasingly wary view of others.
Theories differ on why. A USA Today story quotes Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone,
who says Americans have abandoned clubs and civic associations in favor
of watching TV at home, thereby reducing common social experiences and
the ties they create. University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner
studies politics and trust. He writes that economic inequality drives
distrust. If you believe the world is a good place and that you can help
make it better, you'll be trusting, he says. If you think it's a dark
place run by forces beyond your control, you won't.
says trust has declined as the gap between rich and poor has grown
because more Americans feel they no longer have a shared fate with the
affluent and rich. A 2007 Pew Research Center analysis, showing
minorities and low income adults had lower levels of social trust than
wealthier groups, theorized that people who feel vulnerable or disadvantaged find it riskier to trust "because they are less well-fortified to deal with the consequences of misplaced trust."
a more trusting society emerge? Millennials, the digital natives who
build their own social networks and use social media with ease, hold the
key. Despite their low levels of trust, they are more optimistic than those who've gone before them. The Pew research shows nearly half think America's best years are in the future.
Trust men and they will be true to you. Treat them greatly and they will show themselves great. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Updated: Friday, May 23, 2014
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is about life at the very top of the world's forests, a distinct aerial
realm where an estimated 30 million species share their space with
leaves, branches, rain, sunlight and wind. Life on the ground is
interconnected with life on the top and everything in between. In fact,
survival of the whole forest depends on the success of the life at every
level. And health care organizations have much in common with forests.
The design team envisioning a new Kirkland Clinic at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle studied rainforest ecosystems
as they considered how different teams of specialists, internal
medicine and family medicine providers could blend individual design
needs for their own patients while working together on whole clinic with
core support services. As a result, the Mountain, Meadow and Beach
corridors in the clinic allow the teams to share resources and operate
autonomously as needed.
In his new book Accelerating Health Care Transformation with Lean and Innovation, internationally renowned consultant Paul Plsek describes Virginia Mason Medical Center's continuing work to integrate Lean
and innovation in pursuit of "the perfect patient experience." Learning
from analogies in nature is one tool. Word play was another.
Participants in a workshop convened for design of another clinic used
the word "lagoon" to temporarily sum up a guiding metaphor. A lagoon is
flexible because it supports both fresh and salt water and while it
looks calm and beautiful it's teeming with life under the surface.
In 2002, Virginia Mason adopted the basic tenets of the Toyota Production System, called it the Virginia Mason Production System,
and integrated it throughout the organization in an ambitious program
to change the way it delivers health care and improve patient safety and
quality. Plsek, a management guru and expert in large scale change in
complex systems, served as the center's chair of innovation. He explains
lucidly and with dozens of examples why Lean and innovation are
complementary. Lean is about standardization that improves flow and
removes waste, and it stretches people's thinking by aiming for
perfection even when that seems impossible. That requires busting myths,
re-thinking basic assumptions, and examining practices in other
industries. During various change efforts, staff members were asked to
study weather forecasting, air traffic control, and computer virus
detection for any key features that might relate to improvement in
hospital care. Inspired by the fast food business, Virginia Mason began
the first drive through flu vaccine program.
tools of lean and the directed creativity described by Plsek brought
about a clinic operation so well designed that patients were seen
immediately, eliminating the need for a waiting room, and an infection
prevention and communication system so efficient that time needed to
identify a catheter associated urinary tract infection was reduced from
seven hours to 11 minutes. Plsek talks about the long commitment to
create a learning organization, where all community members are
introduced to VMPS, all engaged in improvement, and leaders learn to
coach and support learning. Plsek discussesa commitment to andragogy-the
education of the adult learner, who unlike the child or complete
novice, needs opportunities for application of new concepts, dialogue,
and guided reflection in a safe environment that permits the learner to
challenge and unlearn old and deeply held beliefs and assumptions.
Plsek makes clear, none of this is quick or easy. He quotes reflection
by Virginia Mason neurosurgeon Dr. Farrokh Farrokhi who studied the
Toyota system in Japan and came come to understand that the Japanese
after 50 years are still perfecting their system, and the journey of
lean and innovation is infinite. "I now realize that paradoxically, what
you need is patient urgency," Dr. Farrokhi said. Listen to tomorrow's PlexusCall with Paul Plsek and Daniel Pesut.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, May 15, 2014
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and personality are strongly influenced by participation in groups, and
individuals living in stable environments seem more able to develop
their own distinctive styles than individuals who face frequent
sounds like human experience, but this finding came from research on
social spiders. While most of the world's 43,000 varieties of spiders
work alone as they spin webs and devour prey, Stegodyphus dumicola
is one of the 35 or so arachnid species that could make an arachnophobe
flee in horror. These social spiders collaboratively build massive webs
that allow them to capture prey bigger than they are, and they organize
their activities and divide their labors. And as Natalie Angier writes in a New York Times story,
research on these unusual creatures may provide fresh insights into
such human mysteries as where personality comes from and why some
individuals are innately shy while others are naturally aggressive. Jonathan N. Pruitt,
PhD, a biologist at the University of Pittsburgh, who studies social
spiders, told Angier, "It's very satisfying to me that the most maligned
of organisms may have something to tell us about who we are."
People and animals differ hugely in such traits as shyness, boldness, and adventurousness. Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Dr. Pruitt and Kate Laskowski, of the Leibnitz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
in Berlin, report that social spiders display individual
predispositions early. Further, spiders living in a stable, predictable
environment didn't become conformists. They became more individualistic
and had more pronounced personal quirks than spiders that were
experimentally shifted from one group to another. And personality tended
to dictate how labor was divided.
explains that among honeybees, caste depends on age-the youngest tend
the young, while older bees forage for food and defend the hive. Ants
wind up as soldiers or workers depending on their nutrition when they
are larvae. Social spiders find their niche in community operations
based on such individual characteristics as size and temperament.
Pruitt and colleagues found that, the innately aggressive spiders were
in charge of capturing prey and defending the colony while more docile
spiders tended the young. How do you discover spider personality? In one
method the Times story describes, researchers puffed air at
the spiders through a bulb-topped syringe. The bold ones bounced back
from the perceived threat in five or fewer seconds, while the more timid
ones took 10 seconds or longer. And the stable groups had the greatest
variety of bold and shy. Researchers even found that whole colonies can
have distinctive personalities, just as human neighborhoods can.
are discovering more and more animals that have traits we once
considered exclusively human. So we can marvel at spider individuality.
We can also be glad we don't share the Stegodyphus approach to family
life. The father spiders commit infanticide and the mothers are suicidal.
Females attach their egg cocoons to the web and guard them until babies
hatch. Male Stegodyphus spiders like to steal the eggs, forcing the
female to replace the cocoon and use the miscreant's sperm to fertilize
at least some of her eggs. Once the babies hatch, the mother feeds her
young by regurgitating most of her own meals directly into their mouths.
When the babies are about a month old, they attack the mother,
injecting her with their venom and digestive enzymes, and eat her. When
she is consumed, the siblings cannibalize as many of their brothers and
sisters as they can before the survivors embark on new lives. Read the Times story here.
left image by Dr VB Whitehead
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, May 08, 2014
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Jeff Bezos announced last year that Amazon was testing drones to speed
purchased goods to Amazon customers, lots of people laughed. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd
wondered whether other alpha moguls would want their own drone fleets
to provide their customers with instant gratification, and she worried
about the dizzying logistics and hazards of thousands of delivery drones
crisscrossing the nation's airspace. Netflix mocked Amazon with a fake ad.
Entrepreneur Andreas Raptopoulos scoffed when Domino's
launched two pepperoni pizzas on a publicity-driven drone delivery last
summer. "Why the hell would you do that," he asked, when perfectly good
ways to deliver pizza already exist? But as a story by Shane Hickey in The Guardian explains, Raptopoulos already had his own vision of drones delivering medical supplies to places that roads don't reach. He founded Matternet,
a company devoted to a network of stations for flying drones that could
expand beyond medical applications to become the world's next
generation transportation system. Matternet has tested drone prototypes
for deliveries in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The technology isn't
yet ready for long distances and mass development, but Raptopoulos
believes safe, reliable drone systems are inevitable.
Bezos, the Amazon CEO, is serious too. Amazon's core business is selling and delivering physical stuff, and a Wired Magazine story by Marcus Wohlsen
reports plans for drone delivery are well underway. According to the
story, Bezos told shareholders in his annual letter that the Amazon "Prime Air team is already testing our 5th and 6th generation aerial vehicles, and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8."
It not as far-fetched as it sounds. An administrative law judge for the National Transportation Traffic Safety Administration ruled the Federal Aviation Administration has no authority to ban
the commercial use of unarmed aerial vehicles. Amazon has said it hopes
FAA rules for civilian drone flights will be in place sometime in 2015.
What if they crash or smash into things? What if people shoot them down? An Atlantic story by Alexis Madrigal explains why Raptopoulos thinks those are baseless fears and why drones are the transportation of the future.
have been used already for a friendly gesture, with a little
advertising thrown in. Singapore is a wealthy country, but it relies on a
million immigrant workers from China, India and Bangladesh who get paid as little as $1.60 an hour
for manufacturing and construction work. Fast Company reports
that to cheer people missing their homes, Coca Cola asked Singaporeans
to take photos of signs thanking the immigrants for building their
buildings. The photos were wrapped around cans of Coke, and 2,500 cans
of cold soda were delivered by drone to construction workers. The ad
agency Ogilvy & Mather Singapore filmed workers happily getting their drinks and messages, and you can watch here. Well, that is nice, but don't forget scientists say soft drink consumption is a major contributor to obesity and diabetes, in wealthy and developing countries world wide.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, May 01, 2014
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people who care more about social capital than market capital, and who
think access is more valuable than ownership, will increasingly disrupt
established businesses and transform economies, according to economic
and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin.
Rifkin is the author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, a new book that describes how the emerging Internet of Things
is propelling us toward an era of nearly free goods and services and
how a growing culture of sharing rather than owning is speeding the
growth of a global Collaborative Commons. And those forces, he says, will mean the eclipse of capitalism as we know it.
In an essay posted at CommonDreams.org, Rifkin cites opinion surveys by Latitude Research
reporting 75 percent of respondents believe their sharing of physical
objects and spaces will increase in the next five years; 78 percent said
online interactions have made them more open to sharing with strangers;
and 85 percent think the web and mobile technologies will help build
large scale sharing communities.
In a New York Times essay,
Rifkin identifies what he calls "a paradox at the heart of capitalism."
He says the "inherent dynamism of competitive markets" is bringing
costs so far down that many goods and service are becoming cheap,
plentiful and no longer subject to market forces. He says that began
with peer to peer file sharing that let people bypass conventional
sources for entertainment and information. He predicts many giant
enterprises in a variety of commercial sectors won't survive the trend.
is a six-year-old start up that has booked three million guests for 10
million nights in 33,000 cities in 192 countries. This year, Rifkin
writes, Airbnb expects to fill more rooms than the Hilton
InterContinental hotel chain -the world's largest hotel operation. Airbnb
connects people who want to earn income by renting out their unused
space and people looking for interesting, inexpensive temporary lodging.
The website offers accommodations that range from rooms and apartments
to boats and tree houses. Its biggest competitor, Couchsurfing.org
is described on its website has a global community of 7 million people
in more than 100,000 cities who "share their life, their world, their
members provide free space to each other, and emphasize the opportunity
for social interaction. Rifkin says more than 19.1 million friendships
have developed from couchsurfing visits.
A multitude of websites offer sharing and renting of cars, toys, tools, and clothing for children and adults. Tie Society is a subscription service for men who can receive and exchange the high-end fashion accessories for as little as $11 a month. The Freecycle Network is a nonprofit that claims more than seven million members world wide and allows users to give away used items for free.
not surprising that a younger generation that grew up recycling
plastic, glass and paper would turn to recycling items they own," Rifkin
writes. "The notion of optimizing the life cycle of items in order to
reduce the need to produce more partially used goods has become second
nature to young people for whom sustainability is the new frugality."
thinks The Internet of Things, a recent phenomenon based on a
technology platform that is beginning to connect everyone to everything,
has potential to create a new economic model in which collaborative
consumption outpaces owning. According to WhatIs.com, a thing, in the Internet of Things (IoT), can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low -- or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. Rifkin
writes that today, more than 11 billion sensors are attached to things
and feeding data into the IoT. People can connect to the network and use
available tools to access a huge range of products and services. Rifkin
calls IoT a game changer that will allow a collaborative commons to
flourish alongside conventional commercial markets.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, April 24, 2014
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vibrant economy needs more organizations where people thrive, and
evidence suggests we're far from that ideal. A recent Gallop report
finds 70 percent of American workers are disengaged from their jobs, and
nearly 20 percent of the disengaged actively resist their employers'
goals. Gallop also reports
disengagement may cost up to $550 billion a year in lost productivity,
and untold losses in employee potential. With only 22 percent of
employees committed to their work and thriving, there clearly is an
urgent need to plant seeds to grow engagement.
In their new book, The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures, Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz,
both experienced in business and skilled facilitators, give us an
entire seed catalog: 33 Liberating Structures which, used alone or in
combination, provide an endless variety of ways to include and engage
people in groups of any size.
authors identify the sweet spot where changes are easy to implement and
make a big difference: the routine practices that people use to
structure how they interact when they meet to plan, learn, solve
problems, and make decisions. They call these practices
"microstructures" and they have found that nearly everyone uses the same
five conventional microstructures over and over: presentations and
lectures in the classrooms, managed discussions, status reports, open
discussions and brainstorms. Unfortunately, these five conventional
structures are designed primarily to direct and control and are
inadequate for engaging people. In contrast, Liberating Structures (LS)
are designed to make it easy to include and engage everyone regardless
of rank or seniority.
introducing LS the authors help us become much more aware of the
ubiquitous presence of structures and how they both support and
constrain all our activities. They show us how we can configure them to
help us achieve surprisingly better outcomes. The conversations we
start, the questions we ask, and our listening skills all make a
difference. The authors challenge us to observe circumstances and events
more closely with attention to what's really important to us and to
others. They make it clear that we can all learn to use simple
structures that enable any group of people working together to radically
improve collaboration, innovation and decision-making.
LS everybody affected by a problem can be included in discovering how
to tackle it. The role of leadership is to participate and support but
not dictate. The book has a whole chapter on how leaders using LS can
learn to contribute their own best while energizing others to develop
and flourish in their work.
Creative icons represent each of these microstructures on the Liberating Structures website.
LS are easy to learn. For example, in 1,2,4,All,
participants get a minute to reflect on an issue and write their
thoughts. They get two minutes to share their thoughts in pairs, and two
minutes to repeat the process in a group of four. The four person
groups each decide on the most important points to share with the whole
group. The entire exercise can take three to 15 minutes, and surprising
new ideas are likely. All participants, regardless of position, can
articulate and test their ideas in a safe space and all have an equal
chance to contribute. Good ideas can emerge from anyone. There is no
limit on how many people can be included.
inspired in part by a Russian inventor, participants are invited to
engage in creative destruction and dispatch sacred cows. They think of
an important objective and then list everything they can do to achieve
the exact opposite. Some of the suggestions are likely to be hilarious.
During the second step their task is to identify anything they currently
do that resembles the things on their list. Now they know what they
need to creatively destroy in order to make space for innovation. Other
LS will help with a deeper dig for solutions.
book is elegantly structured and designed for easily accessible answers
to questions. Part One offers a thoughtful discussion of "The Hidden
Structures of Engagement," how to see them under the surface, how they
work, and how the power of small changes can induce transformations
without expensive training and personnel changes at work and without
strife at home. In Part Two, the authors share their wisdom on learning
and using different LS. They suggest ways to match specific challenges
to specific structures. Is your purpose unclear? Try 9 Whys.
It works at home just as well. Lipmanowicz recalls a colleague saying
she used 9 Whys to help her daughter crystallize ideas for a school
paper. Want to analyze progress to date and decide how to proceed? Try What, So What, Now What.
That too works in home and career. Mixing LS can refine inquiries and
discoveries. The authors suggest ways to string several LS together to
work on complex issues. But they stress their examples are not
prescriptions. While LS are easy to understand, advanced skill using all
of them takes practice. "Learning to customize Liberating Structure
designs for the specific purpose of each complex challenge is an art
form that can be improved over a life time," the authors declare.
extensive field guide explains each LS, its structural elements, its
possibilities, its derivation, and some tips, potential traps and
stories from the field are instructive. Lisa Kimball is an experienced
entrepreneur who started using LS in the 1980s. In her work with the
U.S. Army, a User Experience Fishbowl
allowed soldiers about to deploy to Afghanistan to hear first-hand
experiences of soldiers returning from war. That included vital
information on how they built trusting relationships with women in rural
villages to improve intelligence and discourage Taliban recruitment.
Officers reported they learned far more from personal exchanges than
from formal summaries. Michael Gardam, MD, medical director of infection
prevention at the University Health Network in Toronto, explains the
way Social Network Mapping
showed new relationships developing across units and diverse
disciplines as people collaborated to stop the spread of infections. Simple Ethnography
interviews, ranging from housekeeping to executives, then documented
the culture changes and differences of habits and behavior brought about
by new ways of working together.
Structures may be the seeds to grow engagement in your organization.
They may also nurture new thoughts and actions in your communities and
To learn more, participant in a PlexusCall May 9, in which Henri and others will discuss Liberating Structures. Buy the book, visit the LS website, and attend the Liberating Structures Workshop May 29-30. Read the Gallop State of the American Workplace Report.