Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, November 13, 2014
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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
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, October 9, 2014
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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.
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 Newsworks.org,
"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
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
, a discussion here
and learn about the technology here
Posted By Tom Bigda-Peyton,
Friday, September 5, 2014
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A recent PlexusCall featured the recent controversy between Dr.
Jill LePore and Clay Christensen on the topic of disruptive innovation. Three panelists shared their experience
with, and perspective on, Christensen's theory: Peter Jones, David Hurst,
and Dr. John Kenagy.
Dr. Kenagy said that successful organizations are designed to
keep doing what they are good at doing.
This prevents them from seeing, or fostering, innovations that may be
disruptive (game-changing). In
healthcare this is important because existing organizations, especially those
that are well-known and established, may miss or suppress a "game
changing" innovation that could provide a breakthrough on Kenagy's
area of focus, generating "more care at lower cost."* In order to support disruptive
innovations in healthcare, we need to create "safe places" in
which to experiment toward better and even disruptive solutions to healthcare's
problems. Kenagy went on to
elaborate on his methods for creating this kind of "learning line," or "safe to fail" lab in healthcare organizations.
However, healthcare also seems to be a special case of
disruptive innovation. As Kenagy
and other speakers noted, the notion of "disruptive" innovation
suggests the advent of a new product or service that disrupts the status
quo. But what is the "product" of
healthcare? Kenagy posits that we
have one product in healthcare: the health of the patient in front of us. This is a complex challenge, one that
suggests a different set of variables than those confronted by Apple or Google.
David Hurst and Peter Jones noted additional dimensions of the
healthcare challenge which differentiate it from other industries. Jones suggested that the popularity of
the "disruptive" idea may lead us down the wrong path,
especially when it comes to healthcare.
Do we want medical device startups competing for funding on the idea
that they have a disruptive innovation, when a better solution may be that a
consolation of companies all have parts of an overall solution that would be
better than any of them can produce on their own? The current funding model may suboptimize in terms of
overall problem-solving and advancing the health and well-being of individuals
and the wider society. For these
and other reasons, Kenagy asserted that "adaptive" innovation
may be a more appropriate term than "disruptive" innovation
How does a complexity view help us develop an optimal US
healthcare system? Let’s
assume that healthcare is a complex adaptive system. How do we represent our theory of the system itself? What are the metaphors of change that
can help us navigate the journey of disruptive innovation in healthcare? The panelists agreed that organic metaphors,
such as the butterfly effect or the self-organizing capacity of flocks of
birds, work better than mechanistic metaphors or system dynamics diagrams. If we want to mimic nature, the
panelists agreed, we need to promote conditions for trial-and-error
experimentation, such that the actors in the system can use a trial-and-error
pathway toward innovations that may become "disruptive."
Are there current efforts in healthcare to mimic nature’s
process of self-organization and evolution? What can we say about the conditions which foster this kind
of process in human organizations?
Viewing the situation through a complexity lens may help.
When we think about nature as a metaphor for self-organizing and
evolution, we need to think about the conditions in human organizations that
promote self-organization. We
would like to highlight three:
agreement among stakeholders; and
language and common framework for complex problem-solving.
Following the Stacey Matrix (below), "optimal uncertainty” refers
to a middle zone between chaos and simple problem solving. There is uncertainty but not so much as
to paralyze the organization; there is familiarity but not so much as to make the problem seem
routine. Optimal agreement is a
similar concept, in which we find a diversity of views but also enough commonality
to bind, or hold, the group together.
Finally, we believe the capacity for self-organization is fostered by a
common language and framework for complex problem-solving, such as the ability
to differentiate between simple, complicated, and complex problems and the
capacity to match appropriate methods to each.
How does all of this apply to healthcare? We will take up this question in our
Tom Bidga-Peyton is a Senior Consultant with Plexus Institute. Tom's work focuses on widening and accelerating the pace of improvement in individual, organizational, and large-system change initiatives.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Updated: Friday, July 4, 2014
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Clayton Christensen, the business scholar who developed the
concept of disruptive innovation, and historian Jill Lepore are Harvard faculty
colleagues. The two professors don't agree on much, and Lepore's sharply written
assault on Christensen's theory has ignited an uproar in academic and business
In his 1997 book the Innovator's
Dilemma, Christensen lays
out his theory of disruptive
innovation, which holds that products or services that begin simply and
inexpensively at the bottom of market, often using new technology, can
eventually displace those of established companies that seem to be doing all
the right things to maintain their success.
The Thinkers50, a biennial ranking of the
world's most influential management theorists, last year for the second time
named Christensen the
top "thought leader" in the world, and disruptive innovation has been one
of the most widely celebrated ideas in modern business.
to Lepore, the theory's
celebration is one of its problems: she thinks it has escaped critical
examination and been carelessly applied to explain too much. In her New
Yorker article "The Disruption Machine," Lepore analyzes how we understand innovation and disruption. Every age has its
theory of history, she writes. The eighteenth century had the idea of progress,
the nineteenth had evolution, and the twentieth had growth and innovation. "Our
era has disruption," she writes, "which despite its futurism is atavistic. It's
a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an
apocalyptic fear of global devastation and shaky evidence."
used to have negative connotations, she says, but the idea was redeemed by its
use to describe bringing new products to market. Still, she writes, "The idea
of innovation is the idea of progress stripped of the aspiration of
enlightenment, scrubbed clean of the horrors of the 20th century,
and relieved of its critics. Disruptive innovation goes further, holding out
the hope of salvation against the very damnation it describes: disrupt and you will
In his book, Christensen supports his theory with industrial
case histories. Mainframe computer manufacturers were disrupted when they
missed the market for personal computers. Mini steel mills disrupted the operations of big steel companies,
and a healthy department store industry—the number of stores in U.S. plunged
from 316 to fewer than 10—was disrupted by growth of discount stores. Lepore asserts that Christensen
handpicked his examples, and she introduces evidence to challenge or complicate
his much of his analysis. She notes, for instance, that companies and divisions
that dominated the disc drive industry in the 1980s dominate today, despite
facing disruption Christensen describes from makers of smaller hard drives .She
also points out a high failure rate among would-be disruptive start ups.
In an interview with Drake
Bennett at Bloomberg Business Week, Christensen agrees with Lepore that the
word disruption has become a cliché. But agreement ends there. He calls her
story "a criminal act of dishonesty." Slate's
technology writer Will Oremus says that’s overstating his case, which is
what he accuses Lepore of doing. Oremus concludes that Lepore's cherry picked
examples don't overthrow Christensen's theory any more than Christensen's cherry-picked
examples definitely prove it. In a
in Forbes, Clark Gilbert, chief executive of the Deseret News and Deseret
Digital Media, vigorously defends Christensen’s theory and the scholarship
behind it, as does business consultant John
Hegel in his blog.
Leonard, New York Times columnist
Krugman, and New York
Roose, sympathize with Lepore's views with some caveats. Richard
Feloni at Business Insider reviewed reactions, including tweets from Steven
Sinofsky, the former president of Microsoft's Windows division, who suggests
that both professors are right. He says disruptive innovation has plenty of
exceptions but it's still a useful theory.
What do disruptive innovation theory and its critique look
like through a complexity lens? If
you have thoughts on that, we’d love to hear from you.
Thank you Peter Jones, David Hurst and John Kenagy for your thoughts on disruption and innovation!
Peter Jones, PhD, of OCAD University in Toronto, addresses the issues raised by Jill Lepore and Clayton Christensen in his blog post Reproduction of Disruption, How Innovation Regimes Reproduce Culture.
Reproduction of Disruption
Business consultant and author David K. Hurst, BA, MBA has written two parts of a three part post interpreting disruption from an ecological perspective. He comments, "With the continual emergence of antibiotic-resistant bugs threatening to disrupt healthcare, it seems to me that the ecological/complex systems view is essential."
Disrupting Disruption Theory [Part I]: Storm in a Modernist Teacup
Disrupting Disruption Theory [Part II]: Ecological Transformation
See commentary of John Kenagy, MD, MBA, ScD, FACS "Fireworks: The Disruption of Disruptive Innovation" at his m2s2 e club site.
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 8, 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, 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.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, January 2, 2014
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Kevin Plank, founder of the performance apparel maker Under Armour has a new product-a running shoe that fits like a brassiere
and he plans to launch it in Shanghai, an emerging market where few
have heard of his products. He predicts the new footwear will change the
way people all over the world think about shoes.
Initially, Under Armour was a guy product. Plank
hated the cotton T shirt he wore under his University of Maryland
football uniform. It felt awful when soaked with sweat. He began
experimenting in his grandmother's basement
to make an undershirt with the same fabrics used for women's
lingerie-fabrics that wicked moisture away from the body and kept the
wearer cool and dry. The Hub magazine
tells the story of Under Armour's dramatic growth from that basement
more than 16 years ago to a $2 million a year company with 6,000
employees. And as brand chief Steve Battista explains, at Under Armour, innovation isn't a department, it's a life style. Among other things, the company has produced a sweatshirt that sheds water like a duck, and a shirt that monitors heart rate.
Even the company name reflects diligent contrivance: the 800 phone
numbers Plank first used had too many digits to spell out Under Armor so
he added a "u." Always the entrepreneur, seed money for Under Armour
came from Plank’s earlier venture selling Valentine's Day roses.
The Hub story says early advertising avoided mentioning feminine fabrics and began with what it calls "the testosterone-drenched question 'Will You Protect This House' and the emphatic, now-iconic response 'I Will!'"
the house resonated well with sports teams defending their home turf,
but wasn't necessarily a universal rallying cry. In Shanghai, Plank and
his team focused on the "I Will!" While people in Shanghai tend to work
out regularly they don't consider themselves athletes, they reasoned, so
the "I Will" slogan provides inspiration for men and women who aren't
necessarily playing on sports teams any more, and it suggests a
commitment to achieve no matter the challenge.
company's pitch to athletes involved nuance. Rather than showing
trophies after a win, ads featured the click of the football cleats on
the concrete walkway onto the field, the last thing players heard just
before the game. The pitch to a broader audience was equally engaging.
The Hub reports that in 2013 when the company launched its Armour 39,
a digital performance monitor, advertising focused on the idea that
future performance wear will feature touch screens in the fabric that
will let the wearer set temperature, choose music and change color with a
finger-swipe. A woman called "Future Girl"
demonstrates. The idea, according to Plank and Battista, is to tell the
story of Under Armor's inventiveness and fuel the expectation "that
we're doing some amazing stuff" in conjunction with an emotional message
that will make people want to get up and work out.
In "Empathetic Innovation," another article in the same issue of The Hub, Tom Kelley and David Kelley, both of Ideo,
describe how products and projects change when providers and
manufacturers see and experience what users and customers are doing. For
instance, they say, in 2007 banks were making more than $30 million a
year in overdraft fees. But after interviewing people in the 20 to 35
age range they wanted as new customers, PNC Financial Services realized
people in this group needed help managing their money. So they created Virtual Wallet,
a product that lets customers plan savings as well as viewing their
balance, pay deposits, bills due and highlights "danger days" when
there's high risk of writing a rubber check. New customer deposits made
up what they lost in overdraft fees. Sometimes observing can be more
fruitful than asking the right questions, the Ideo executives say.
Working with a house wares company, an Ideo team observed customers
using an ice cream scoop. Many absent mindedly licked the scoop after
using it. So the team designed a "mouth friendly" scoop, with no sharp
edges or moveable parts that would hurt the tongue. Had people been
asked about using the scoop, they probably wouldn’t have mentioned
licking it, the authors of this piece say, and they might even have
denied it. Read The Hub stories here.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Updated: Sunday, December 22, 2013
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Plexus Institute has received a
$2.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a
three year project in California's Long Beach Unified School District
(LBUSD) to discover, develop and promote methods that help K-12
educators continually improve so that their students achieve better
Research has shown many educators
plateau professionally after only a few years on the job, while some
improve continually throughout their careers. Plexus Institute is
dedicated to the idea that solutions to most challenges already exist
within the community. Plexus will provide coaching and support
customized for LBUSD teachers, administrators, students and support
staff that will be specifically designed to help members of the
educational community discover the conditions and practices that foster
continuous growth in teaching effectiveness and student achievement.
Plexus Institute is a nonprofit devoted to innovative improvement
approaches for serious challenges."
Working with Plexus coaches and
members of the Long Beach educational community, project participants
will identify existing practices that enable continuous professional
growth, which can then be refined for wide application. New and
redesigned practices will be incorporated in the education of Long Beach
children on an ongoing basis, and will be available for application
Plexus will use a collection of
innovative processes to help discover the conditions that allow teachers
to tap their strengths and experience and use all available resources
to develop new ways to improve education. In previous work Plexus has
used these processes in such complex settings as hospitals, schools,
prisons and other organizations, and results have included reduced
healthcare associated infections, higher graduation rates, lower
recidivism and improved employee retention.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, January 31, 2013
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enjoy competitive play, and scientists are designing computer games to
engage that desire and tap talent for solving complex research problems.
The game Phylo
is an online pattern matching puzzle game that will give researchers a
better understanding of genetic codes, and may help identify the origins
of genetic diseases. "Games for Science,"
a story by Dan Cossins in The Scientist Magazine
, explains that multiple sequence alignment
(MSA) is used to identify functional elements in the genome and possible disease triggers. Jerome Waldispuhl
a bioinformatician who created the game with , notes the human brain is
very good-even better than the best computers-at recognizing and
sorting visual patterns and realizing when a general rule is broken.
A Wired story
by Mark Brown outlines what players are asked to do. They look at
blocks of different colors that represent the different letters of the
genetic code A,C,G and T, for adnine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, and they have to line up as many of the same colors as possible,
avoiding gaps that represent mutations. Within months of its release
in 2010, Phylo had 12,000 registered users and 3,000 regular players. A
story in PLoSONE reported
that the gamers outdid computers in matching up disease genes. Its
creators say Phylo is pure game, and players don't have to be versed in
science. Try Phylo yourself here.
The Scientist Magazine says Foldit, created by biologists and computer scientists at the University of Washington
in Seattle, was the first and possibly the most influential of the
crowd-sourced research games. Players have to work out the three
dimensional structures of proteins by folding virtual chains of amino
acids. Players are presented with a visually disorganized mass of shapes
representing the amino acids in a protein, and they use a cursor to
assemble them into a stable structure that uses the lowest amount of
energy, just as molecules do in real life. Designers tested players to
see whether they could replicate structures of proteins puzzles
scientists had already solved-and they did. In 2011,players made a
breakthrough. Scientists had been trying for a decade to solve the
structure of Mason Pfizer Monkey virus that causes an AIDs-like disease
in monkeys. The gamers did it, and not all of them were scientists.
Watch Lucy Walker's animated documentary on how a game team solved the challenge.
is a serious, biology based card game designed to help fight cancer.
It's a bit like poker, except that you don't know the rules when you
start. As you play the game, you both learn and teach the rules. It's
another game that helps identify patterns and determine how they can
combine and reproduce. The game is designed by The Scripps Research Institute.
Data provided by players may help predict which cancer cells are likely
to metastasize and how quickly, and that information could help treat
patients diagnosed with cancers.
The Scientist Magazine story, here,
tells about other research games as well as games designed to enhance
several levels of science learning. Games with animated characters that
help children with autism learn social and behavioral skills also are