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The Smell of Fear and Inherited Trauma

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, July 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, August 1, 2014

Babies can learn very early in life to fear something that frightened their mothers even before they were born. Scientists have known for some time that trauma can ripple through generations. New research on fear transmission may help explain how that happens.

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School taught a group of female rats to fear the smell of peppermint by repeatedly accompanying the smell with mild but unpleasant electric shocks. That was before they were pregnant. After the rats became pregnant and gave birth, the team exposed them to the peppermint smell again, without the shocks, to induce the fear response again.

A story on the university website by Kara Gavin explains that the babies of fearful mother rats, and a comparable group of rat pups whose mothers had no fear of peppermint, were exposed to the smell under many conditions with and without their mothers. When babies were separated from their mothers and exposed to the minty smell along with air piped to them from a nearby container occupied by their frightened mothers, they quickly learned to fear the smell. The trigger for learning apparently was the scent the mothers give off when they are fearful.

"Our research demonstrates that infants can learn from maternal expression of fear very early in life," said Jacek Debiec, MD, PhD, the psychiatrist and neuroscientist who led the research. "Before they can even make their own experiences, they basically acquire their mothers' experiences. Most important, these maternally transmitted memories are long-lived, where other types of infant learning, if not repeated, rapidly perish."

In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Debiec and colleague Regina Marie Sullivan PhD, describe how brain imaging, studies of the genetic activity of individual brain cells, and monitoring blood levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, were used to examine the working of fear in the brain. They found a brain structure called the lateral amygdale was the key location for learning fears, and when they gave baby rats something that blocked activity in that region, they did not learn their mothers' fear. That could help explain why some offspring of traumatized mothers don't inherit fears. The authors hope the work will aid understanding of post-traumatic stress and other mental ills in humans.

Debiec, recalls working with adult children of Holocaust survivors who had nightmares and flashbacks related to experiences they had not endured themselves. Rachel Yehuda, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, has studied descendants of Holocaust survivors and the children of women who were pregnant and in or near the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. She found evidence of intergenerational trauma transmission that could not have occurred through storytelling. She was not involved in Debiec's work, but she told Arielle Duhaime-Ross of Verge magazine that the study is valuable because it provides molecular analysis that would not be possible in living human brains. She said understanding the brain changes that occur with intergenerational transmission could help people understand the long-term impact of parental experiences. "Your fears are not only a response to your personal experiences," Yehuda told Verge, "but those that your parents had as well."

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  research  resilience 

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Giving Kids Faith in a Future

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, June 12, 2014

Teenagers 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.

Teachers, 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 Caucasian peers.

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.

But 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.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  culture  education  resilience 

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Bird Brains and Ram Horns: Clues on Concussions

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, January 9, 2014

Woodpeckers bang their heads into the hard wood of trees thousands of times a day, and yet there is no evidence they get concussions. Long horn rams bash their heads together in frequent rituals that involve collisions at speeds of 20 to 40 miles an hour, and they don't seem to suffer brain damage either. Do these animals offer clues about protecting the brains of athletes?


The incidence of concussions among high school athletes has grown, and concern about safety has been fueled by continuing revelations from retired professional football players who suffered repeated head injuries before onset of the degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as 3.8 million people a year suffer from sports related traumatic brain injuries.

Materials scientist Ainissa G. Ramirez, PhD, coauthor of Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game, quotes materials scientist and MIT Professor Lorna Gibson in a Huffington Post piece about woodpecker brains. Gibson, who has studied woodpeckers, explains, "It's a scaling phenomenon." A woodpecker brain is only about two grams-the mass of two paperclips, compared with a human brain, which averages about 1,400 grams. The lighter the brain, the better it will survive impact, Ramirez writes. She adds by way of explanation that if you drop a cell phone on the floor it will probably not be damaged, but a lap top dropped from the same height may need serious repair. Further, woodpecker brains are oriented at a 90 degree angle so that head-on force is widely distributed, and they fit snugly inside the skull with little room to slosh around.

LiveScience writer Stephanie Pappas gives even more detail. Researchers have found woodpeckers have thick neck muscles that diffuse blows, and a third inner eyelid that prevents the birds' eyes from popping out during repetitious hammering. The thick spongy bone surrounding the woodpecker brain has tiny projections that form a mineral mesh, Pappas writes, suggesting a microstructure that may act as armor for the brain. And she reports Chinese researchers have found the woodpecker's beak may have a microstructure designed to absorb impact rather than transferring it toward the brain.


Rams are big animals with big brains. What makes their head butting benign? Ramirez got some clues from Dr. Andrew Farke, a paleontologist who has studied dinosaurs. Ram's horn is porous bone covered with keratin, an elastic protein material that allows horns to give a little under impact. In addition to distributing the impact of the force, the flexible horn also lengthens the duration of the impact, which lessens the force. Writing in The New York Times, Gregory D. Meyer, PhD, director of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says big horn sheep also have mechanisms that slow the return of blood from the head to the body, increasing the blood volume that fills their brains' vascular tree. In effect, both woodpeckers and rams have brains protected by the physiological equivalent of Bubble Wrap.

Our brains don't fill our skulls, we risk concussions when our brains smack up against our skulls during sudden stops, starts and the collisions of contact sports. Meyers writes that football helmets have reduced fractured skulls, but haven't prevented concussions, because they don't protect what happens inside the skull. Ramirez suggests more research on how materials absorb force could make helmets better. Temperature studies also suggest new possibilities.

Meyers and colleagues at the Colorado School of Public Health found that high school football players who played at higher altitudes had 30 percent fewer concussions. The researchers studied records of athletes in multiple sports from 497 high schools where altitude ranged from seven feet to 6,903 feet, and found all athletes who played at altitudes over 600 feet had 31 percent fewer concussions. "We hypothesize that higher altitude increased the volume of the cerebral venous system, a natural Bubble Wrap that surrounds the brain," and gives it a tighter fit inside the skull, Meyers wrote in The Times. While athletes can't play every game in Denver, he wrote, improved brain safety may come from more research on the biomechanics animals already have in use.

Photo credits: Sid Hamm and National Wildlife Federation

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  nature  neuroscience  research  resilience 

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Wild Apples Evolving With Us

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Friday, November 8, 2013

Thousands of varieties of apples flourished in America in centuries past. Apples were something people drank, and the extraordinary varieties of red, green, yellow and purplish fruits, many of them sour, bitter, and unappetizing by themselves, made excellent hard cider and hog feed.


Rowan Jacobsen, in his Mother Jones story "Why Your Supermarket Only Sells 5 Kinds of Apples," writes about the biological evolution of the American apple and the political and social forces that shaped it. He also tells the story of John Bunker, known in Maine as The Apple Guy, whose decades-long mission has been to identify and preserve as many varieties as possible.

One of the interesting things about apples is that if a tree is grown from seed, its apples won’t be anything like apples of its parent tree. Individual seeds in each apple contain genetic instructions for a totally new apple. As Jacobson explains, "An apple fruit is a disposable womb of the mother tree, each containing a unique combination of genes from the mother tree, and the mystery dad, whose contribution arrived in a pollen packet inadvertently carried by a springtime bee.”

The Plant Genetic Resource Unit, in Geneva, New York now maintains 2,500 varieties of apple trees collected from all over the world. While the ancient fruit originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Michael Pollan suggests in his book the Botany of Desire, a Plant’s Eye View of the World, that the apple as it dispersed became quintessentially American. It was hardy, grew anywhere, could thrive with no maintenance, and was almost mystically democratic. In the early 1800s when Johnny Appleseed was planting his trees, Pollan writes, "they were a blooming fruiting meritocracy in which every apple seed roots in the same soil and has an equal chance of greatness.” Further, Pollan says, hard cider was the buzz of choice in early America, because while the Bible warned against the dangers of the grape, apples even when fermented were considered more innocent. But that view, too, evolved.

Pollan and Jacobsen write that many apple varieties disappeared during Prohibition when trees bearing the best cider apples were chopped down. More diversity was lost with the increasing industrialization of agriculture. To consistently produce sweet, tasty, bright colored apples, farmers had to take a cutting from a tree that produced fruit with the desired trait, and graft it onto living stock. Every McIntosh, Red Delicious and Granny Smith comes from grafting. As industrialization of agriculture increased, so did focus on a few commercially appealing varieties that would withstand long shipment.

The loss of biodiversity puts plants at risk for pests and disease, and today’s apples are vulnerable to both. Apples require more pesticides than any other crop, and are hard to grow organically. Bunker studies apples growing in towns, forests and on neighbors’ lands, and tries to save rare apples, some of which have blight resistant genetic traits. He estimates he has rescued 80 to 100 varieties, growing grafted trees at his Fedco Nursery, and selling vintage plants through Fedco Trees, a mail order company he founded 30 year ago. Bunker fears our diverse agricultural heritage is in danger not only because of the dwindling number of varieties being commercially grown, but because many new apples like the Sweet Tango are the intellectual property of those who bred them.

He keeps looking for lost specimens he’s heard about from distant visitors and local lore, or read about in old books and farm catalogs. His search for the Fletcher Sweet led him to an elderly resident in the town of Lincolnville who knew of a gnarled ancient tree that grew apples he ate as a child. Bunker cut shoots from what little life was left in the tree, and his new grafted trees produced a juicy green flavorful apple. So he has given some young Fletcher Sweet trees back to Lincolnville. Read the Mother Jones story here.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  nature  resilience 

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Disruption Inevitable But Not Always Disastrous

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, June 6, 2013

Globalization, technological change, huge financial crises, political turbulence and natural disasters in the last two decades have made disruptive events virtually inevitable in business and industry. Yet some companies manage better than others and some even come out ahead.

"Captains in Disruption," a Strategy + Business article by Ken Favaro, Per-Ola Karisson, and Gary L. Neilson, reports on the experiences and actions of CEOs who not only guided their organizations to survival but were able to shift trouble and turbulence to organizational advantage. To lead effectively in such times, these authors say, CEOs have to anticipate the kinds of disruptions their companies may face, including natural disasters in remote locations that could disrupt their supply chains. Then they have to prepare an adequate response, and find a way to implement it effectively. And of course, none of that is easy.

They quote Clayton M. Christensen, professor and management professor who first examined the dynamics of disruption in his book The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. "How can you make sense of the future, Christensen asks, "when you only have data about the past? That’s the role of theory, to look into the future.” That means being able to analyze data to spot changes and figure out what they mean, which is especially hard when analysis depends on the strength of the limited data and risk models. Further, Christensen says, leaders often lack candid insights from people at all levels of the organization, which they need plan effectively.

Responses to disruption may need organizational redesign and culture change, the authors write, and if top executives have become isolated, they need to begin interacting informally with people throughout the organization who understand first hand what works and what doesn’t. Cross-organizational interaction, the authors write, is by far the biggest accelerator of change.

Antony Jenkins is an executive who took on a tough job during a time of disruption. In mid-2012, Jenkins was head of the retail and business banking division of Barclays, then the U.K.’s second largest bank. Then the LIBOR rate rigging scandal broke, exposing a series of fraudulent actions connected to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a primary benchmark for short term interest rates around the world. The bank’s chairman and CEO resigned, and Jenkins took over as CEO. The article explains Jenkins immediately informed the bank’s 140,000 employees that the focus on short term goals and immediate profits were out and a new long term strategy for transformation was in. Jenkins says the "cataclysmic experience” made people ready to listen. Jenkins emphasized involving all stakeholders in asking the right questions to move forward. In addition to bank employees, he met with politicians, media, consumer groups and regulators and listened to their criticisms.

The organizational change needed to respond to this cataclysm, Jenkins told S+B, "is about being continually dissatisfied with that you are doing...It’s about constantly challenging and creating an organization that is never satisfied.” What makes that kind of thinking hard, Christensen told the authors, is the human tendency to be complacent and forget to ask good questions. As an antidote, Christensen points to the famous phrase of former Intel CEO Andy Grove: (and the title of his book) "Only the Paranoid Survive." Read the S+B story here.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  leadership  organizations  resilience 

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Building Resilience to Survive Calamities

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, May 30, 2013

The number of the world’s weather related disasters has tripled in the last 30 years. The number of people exposed to flooding has doubled since 1970. The cost of health care brings financial catastrophe to 150 million people every year. And food prices are more volatile than ever.

Citing those sobering conditions, Oxfam, an international confederation of 17 organizations working to provide humanitarian and development aid in 90 countries, asserts that governments, aid organizations and the international community must collaborate to reduce risks that now fall disproportionately on the world’s most vulnerable populations. The Oxfam report, "No Accident: Resilience and the Inequality of Risk," emphasizes that vulnerability to all natural and politically induced hazards is higher in countries with greater income inequality.

While praising a growing focus on building resilience, authors of the report worry that progress will be limited by an excessively technical approach. They write that humanitarian and development programs have traditionally been "designed in linear fashion, whereby specific inputs are expected to lead to a predicted output, but this does not reflect the complexity of dynamic and interconnected risks and uncertainty.” They suggest flexible programs that allow planning and adaptation along with careful monitoring and learning. They stress the need for a common way to measure resilience.

Oxfam defines resilience as "the ability of women, men and children to realize their rights and improve their well-being despite shocks, stresses and uncertainty.”

The report also quotes Dante Dalabajan, Oxfam Program Manager in the Philippines: "There is neither a cookie cutter nor a cookbook for resilience.”

To reach beyond technical fixes, the report says, "Building skills and capacity must go alongside tackling the inequality and injustice that make poor women and men more vulnerable in the first place. This means challenging the social, economic and political institutions that lock in security for some and vulnerability for many...”

The richest 11 percent of the world’s population generates half of all carbon emissions, but suffers least from consequences of climate change, for example, while Southeast Asia suffers from flood losses 15 times greater than the wealthiest, most developed countries.

Oxfam calls recent crises a wakeup call. In Pakistan's floods in 2010 and 2011, thousands died and hundreds of thousands fled their homes. In recurring droughts in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region in West Africa on the edges of the Sahara Desert, the report says more people could have been saved from death and malnutrition but for delayed or inefficient government and private response. While humanitarian aid will always be needed in times of crisis, the report says, more focus is needed on prevention and preparedness-categories that get only 2.6 percent of aid spending now.

In conflict-affected areas, the report says resilience requires "bottom-up empowerment.” For example, in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Agriculture is trying to build trust through establishment of agricultural committees that are part civil society and part government. In Colombia, despite peace negotiations after 50 years of armed conflict, rural population displacement is high and actually increased in 2012. Access to farm fields and markets is still limited because of land mines placed by illegal armed groups, so Oxfam and local partners strengthened community organizations and networks as they cooperated to identify mine sites and find routes for safe passage. They also helped villagers develop kitchen gardens.

While such efforts alone won’t create resilience, the report says, they can start to "build stronger governance with community voices at the center, which is a prerequisite for resilience building.” Read the report.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  resilience 

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Family Stories Help Kids Be Resilient “Oscillating Narratives” Are Healthiest

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your parents went to school and how they met? Do you know the story of your birth?

Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University and his colleague Robyn Fivush, director of Emory’s Family Narratives Lab, developed a measure that asks school children 20 questions about their families. They found that kids who know the most about their families tend to be the most resilient when they face adversity, and the measure tends to be a good predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

In his New York Times column "Family Stories That Bind Us,” Bruce Feiler reports on the research and suggests the one most important thing you can do for your family is to develop a strong family narrative. Feiler, who is a scholar of religion and the Middle East, is also the author of the book The Secrets of Happy Families.

Feiler says Duke and Fivush have found kids who know their family history have a strong sense of their "intergenerational selves” and know they belong to something bigger than themselves. It also helps to have family traditions that children remember and carry on.

Psychologists say every family has some unifying narrative, Feiler reports, and they tend to take three shapes. The ascending narrative says: we started with nothing, overcame obstacles and succeeded. The descending narrative says: once we had it all, but we lost everything. The healthiest, according to Duke, is the oscillating narrative: we’ve had our ups and downs, our successes and failures, but we’ve always stuck together, no matter what happened.

Leaders in business and politics also use narratives to explain core meanings, Feiler writes, and he says the military has found that teaching recruits the history of their service is more effective than bullying in promoting camaraderie and unit cohesion. He quotes Commander David G. Smith, chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy, who advises graduating seniors to take freshmen to cemeteries to see the graves of early naval heroes and aircraft displays on campus to help them build a sense of history.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  leaders  resilience 

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Trust, Community and Laundered Money

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Monday, March 4, 2013

 

After Hurricane Katrina ruined Hancock Bank's corporate headquarters in Gulfport, Mississippi and destroyed or damaged 90 of its 103 branches, a few of the bank's executives huddled outside and wondered how to get through uncharted chaos without electricity, computers, records, or normal police and fire protection.

 They examined the values and mission stated in the bank's 1899 charter—to serve people and take care of communities. The bank had back up files in Chicago, but access would take time. Many Gulf Coast storm victims had lost everything—wallets, check books, and identification. Credit cards, even for those who still had them, wouldn't work to buy food, gas or other necessities. People needed cash, right then.

 So the executives took bold steps to trust and help their neighbors. They decided to give $200 cash to anyone who provided a paper IOU with an address and social security number. Three days after the storm, they opened 30 branches without lights or phones, and in some cases without roofs. In some places they set up card tables under tarps. They salvaged cash from flooded casinos, bank vaults and ATMs, washed it, ironed it, and handed it out to people in need, whether they were Hancock customers or not.

 Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy reported this story in their book Resilience, Why things Bounce Back. Click here to hear Zolli tell it. "Leadership and Mission in Resilient Organizations: Hancock Bank as a Case Study,” by James Pat Smith, notes the bank's 80 year-old chairman Leo Seal Jr. had emphasized for years that banking wouldn't be possible unless 99 percent of the people were honest. That sentiment guided Hancock COO John Hairston and CEO George Schloegel as they decided to distribute money and trust in community. They put $42 million into the devastated local economy.

 Zolli and Healy write that social resilience often flourishes where people have faced devastating challenges. Joe Nocera makes similar observations in his New York Times column "Rebuilding on Their Own.” He tells of visiting New Orleans with Roberta Gratz, author of The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. Gratz, who was mentored by Jacobs, owns a home in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and is writing a book on the city's post-Katrina recovery. Gratz describes people trickling back into the Ninth, where volunteer groups are still helping to rebuild homes and neighbors are helping neighbors. Nocera quotes Gratz's observation that "cities change from the bottom up, block by block.” In New York's Rockaways, still suffering from destruction of Superstorm Sandy, a similar ground-up rebuilding is underway. Habit for Humanity, nonprofits, and neighbors are at work. Government aid has helped both places. But Nocera suggests the Rockaways will recover through the same ad hoc-volunteer-dependent activities that are pulling New Orleans back from ruin.

 After three years, 99.5 percent of unsecured cash distributed to Katrina victims was paid back to Hancock Bank. Smith notes in the five months after the storm 15,000 new accounts were opened, and over time Hancock's deposits grew by $1.5 billion. The bank flourished, and its CEO George Schoegel became mayor of Gulfport.

 In 2005 a group of 600 New York firefighters went to New Orleans to help. Now, Nocera writes, a group of New Orleans firefighters have come to help in the Rockaways to return the favor.

Tags:  buscell  community  complexity matters  resilience 

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Collaboration and Cliffs

Posted By Jeff Cohn, Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 19, 2014

In our latest Plexus book group meeting, we discussed chapter 5 of Andrew Zolli’s excellent and provocative book, "Resilience.” The chapter focuses on collaboration- within groups, between groups, and when there are no pre-existing groups. The book contrasts the failed efforts from 2008 as the banking/mortgage crisis was emerging with the more successful efforts that emerged during the days and weeks after the Haitian earthquake. In the former, a panel of experts from the financial industries was pulled together for the purpose of reversing the economic tide and trying to figure out a way to save Lehman Brothers. Ultimately no "solution” was reached and the group disbanded without action being taken. In the Haiti example, despite (or maybe because of) no central planning, individuals and groups were able to create and coordinate roles and actions, identify and fill gaps, and respond rapidly to the crisis. In addition, the efforts were able to use social networks, diverse perspectives, and ongoing feedback to make adjustments as the effort evolved.

In our discussion we shifted our attention to our current economic crisis: the looming financial "cliff.” We are looking to our elected officials to solve this crisis for us and implement the solution. Doesn’t this resemble what occurred in 2008? Why do we think that a group of pretty homogeneous legislators will actually be able to solve this complex challenge? Yes, there are a few different perspectives in Congress- but just a few. And the backgrounds of most of the people in Congress are amazingly similar. Why can’t we employ the science of how to make progress in complex situations like this to guide us? What if each Representative and Senator had to bring one or two constituents with him or her to join in the search for a way out? What if this large group was then shuffled in a way that people were forced to interact with people they did not know, that might have very different perspectives from them? What if the interactions were designed by the sort of skilled facilitators that are in the Plexus network, who worked to create the conditions for emergent innovation through relationships and communication? And what if whatever emerged was viewed as step one on an iterative pathway, since there is no way to really figure this all out in advance, and we will need to learn and adapt as we go? What ideas do others have? How could we use our own social capital, the power of our collective networks, to try to help make this happen?

Tags:  catching butterflies  cohn  collaboration  resilience 

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