Adaptive Change: Plexus Institute works with organizations and teams to design, facilitate, and assess projects focused on cultural and behavioral change. We help build internal capacity to use innovative methodologies such as Positive Deviance and Design Research to engage everyone in finding new solutions to intractable problems.
Research: Plexus Institute designs, leads and participates in research projects to explore new approaches to quality improvement, organizational change, and system development. We have experience incorporating a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods and using creative strategies to capture and document the stories that provide rich details to develop understanding.
Education and Training: Plexus Institute creates and implements learning programs and curriculum for leaders, community members, and others with an interest in how ideas about complex change and innovation apply to their work and challenges. We draw on our network of scientists and practitioners to identify the latest insights about key concepts from the framework of complexity science such as diffusion of innovation, taking ideas to scale, and self-organization. We pride ourselves on making powerful theory accessible and useful for immediate application.
Changing the Conversation: Our core theory of action to create the conditions for change by engaging everyone in new conversations – at all levels, in all roles, and in some cases from both inside and outside the organization. Plexus Institute creates high engagement, multi-stakeholder events for organizations and communities using liberating structures – easy-to-learn, adaptable methods for engagement that make it quick and simple for groups of people of any size to radically change how they interact and work together.
Networks are ubiquitous and research into the operation and structure of networks is exploding. In this domain of the website you will find resources that explore the dynamics and architecture of networks, the works of key network scholars, and insights into a wide variety of networks – from schools to insect colonies, the internet, and business organizations. You will also find examples of how network insights are being used to help create healthier communities and foster innovation.
A Plexus Institute partner in social network visualization is Meta Strategies. Liz Rykert founded Meta Strategies in 1997 in Toronto. As a positive deviance coach, Liz is supporting work at the University Health Network and Toronto East General in Toronto to reduce the spread of hospital superbugs and is part of the team on the Canadian research project on PD. With Liz, Chris Black has worked on numerous consulting projects relating to the effective use of stakeholder/membership information, user interfaces and web site planning for groups including Health Canada, Community Foundations of Canada and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.
The 4 Developmental Stages of Networks
– Jack Ricchiuto, Sunday, March 14, 2010
June, Valdis and I have seen countless networks grow over the past 30 years. It’s interesting to see networks grow from weaker to stronger. They go through four stages in the process. Here is a model based on the phases of human development. When we bring people together in their networks, we see all four stages within various connections in the network.
Best of all, unlike human development where phases cannot be skipped, effective network development can involve immediate acceleration to an emerging and scaling network of adult connections.
People in the network feel dependent on formal leaders to make things happen in the network. Their whole life is structured around demands that parent leaders take care of all their needs. Their whole thrivancy is based on the trade of compliance for protection.
People in the network are interested in making things happen, but only things that require permissions and funding from the parental formal leaders. They are focused in this phase of getting more support from parent-leaders for the things they want to do. They live in continuous demand from a position of entitlement.
People in the network give up dependency on their parent-leaders, but still believe the “pie of resources” is still finite and so compete with peers to satisfy their needs. In this phase, people in the network believe that others’ loss is the necessary cost of their gain.
People in the network take responsibility for their destinies and know that working together expands the pie in ways that allows everyone to thrive. They believe that people in the network can achieve more together than they ever could apart or in opposition.
Network weavers help people move into the adult phase more quickly and successfully, accelerating the possibilities of more strong networks.
The Power of Social Networks: Creating, Mapping, Analyzing and Leveraging Your Organization’s Networks with June Holley. See all the Plexus Institute on-demand webinars hosted by ULiveandLearn.
Building Smart Communities Through Network Weaving (pdf) – Valdis Krebs and June Holley, 2006
Smart Networks Presentation (pdf) – June Holley, 2009
Network Weaver Checklist (pdf) – June Holley, 2008
Map Drawing Activity (Smart Network Weaving) (pdf) – June Holley
Ancient Practice of Chinese Social Networking (pdf) – Scott Hammond and Lowell Glenn, 2004
AHRQ, the lead government agency charged with improving quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of health care, has designated The Quality Commons (TQC) partnership to be part of ACTION II with the following collective purpose:
“We will improve the health of Americans by using our collective wisdom, relationships, diverse capabilities and a complexity science framework to solve intractable health care challenges and transform patient care.”
“The Quality Commons: Changing Conversations in Health Care,” formed in March 2010, includes health care organizations with a wide range of medical specialties as well as scholars with expertise in complexity science, mathematics, statistics, education, nursing, organizations and management, medical research, psychology, social networking and communications.
Organizations in The Quality Commons include:
Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Philadelphia, PA
Allina Hospitals & Clinics, Minneapolis, MN
Billings Clinic, Billings, MT
Cabin Creek Health Systems, Dawes. WV
Center for Family, Community and Social Justice, Princeton, NJ
Maine Medical Center, Portland, ME
Park Nicollet Health Services, St. Louis Park, MN
Plexus Institute, Bordentown, NJ
University of Louisville Hospital, Louisville, KY
Rise of the Clockwork Organization
Our model for organizations emanated from the industrial era, in which human organizations were viewed as if they were machines. Undoubtedly, machines brought wondrous advances to humanity. The power of engines, the precision of clocks, and the very laws of mechanics created staggering efficiencies in the inanimate world, greatly benefiting the cause of man.
Utilized as interchangeable parts, humans quit working with their hearts and minds. Governed by power structures and measured primarily by material metrics, personal relationships became more brittle, ranking family and community among the casualties of the modern age. Obsessed with measurement (especially of money), the unmeasurable, such as human spirit, shrank from our attention and we lost sight of how systems, especially living systems, operate as a connected whole.
While the march of modernity benefited humankind in many areas – cleaner water, safer housing, widely available education – it has also reduced our well-being and performance in dramatic ways. For instance,at the individual level, lifestyle and environmental factors – not genetic predisposition – account for the majority of diseases in the modern era, according to an account in The New England Journal of Medicine. Despite advances in medicine, diseases of civilization grow more common as modern lifestyles cleave mankind from the natural patterns in which the human species evolved. Diseases such as heart disease, strokes, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, cancer and obesity are a consequence of this discordance and currently cause 75% of deaths in the western world.
At the family level, power structures, gender roles, and disharmony take an unacceptable toll, as reflected in high and in many cases increasing rates of divorce, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and child abuse (see The Social Health of the Nation by Marc L. Miringoff, et al).
At the organizational level, people and the systems they create routinely operate below their full potential (see The Human Equation by Jeffrey Pfeffer). Creativity of the individual is often stifled by bureaucratic constraints. Collaboration is blocked by competition. Too many schools, businesses, nonprofit groups, and government agencies remain rigid and inflexible, even as they are surrounded by rapid change. Many of those who find material fulfillment in their work lives nonetheless remain personally unfulfilled.
The Importance of Relationships
We invite you to spend a moment reflecting on your own life, family, and work. At a deep level, we all sense the inadequacy, indeed the harm, caused by a model of human interaction that relies mainly on power and control. Think of a teenager you know in trouble and you realize that controlling behavior is a poor substitute for values and dialogue. Think about the great teams to which you have been privileged to belong and remember the trusting bonds that emerged among the participants. Or recall how a community pulled together after a natural disaster, all without central leadership or control.
These experiences teach us that what happens between people and between systems – in other words, relationships – play a huge role, often the principal role. This observation stands in marked contrast to the mechanical mental model, which emphasizes the role not of relationships but of individuals, as if they were objects.
A New Way of Thinking And Acting
Whatever their value in the past, mechanistic principles alone are inadequate for the complexity and change we face today. Clearly, we need a new way of looking at work and organizations of all types.
Such a world-view has in fact emerged; it is known as complexity science. At its core, this intellectual revolution is transforming our understanding of life, its structures, dynamics and its care, while providing new principles for making sense of what is most fundamental in our lives: our relationships with other people and our environment.
Such understandings give us powerful new ways of thinking about and acting on issues which span human concern, from such seemingly disparate domains as ecological preservation, childhood education and executive leadership. As such, it is relevant to everyone. Already, some business, community and government leaders are embracing the ideas emerging from complexity science, but they remain a minority.
To build on this opportunity Plexus Institute was founded with this mission:
(In this mission statement “health” is meant to include physical as well as mental and spiritual dimensions. A “healthy” individual has a healthy body, healthy relationships, a healthy home and workplace. A healthy person is poised for learning, growth and adaptability. Similarly a “healthy” organization generates more than material success. It creates an environment in which relationships are rewarding and opportunities to learn, grow and contribute are available to all. It is poised to adapt. A “healthy” community is one in which all people are nurtured and valued, where information flows freely, where there is healthy interaction among all groups and where institutions support the growth and development of all.)