Lisa Kimball had magical qualities – she would gather and connect a diverse group of people, let each person soar above all expectations and gently guide the group as they co- created something remarkable. Lisa continually shared her gifts with a wide range of professional groups, clients and friends. Stories of Lisa’s talents, generosity and big heart are now being shared across many networks and between colleagues and friends.

What we share is more than a remembrance, it is the enduring energy of Lisa’s voice encouraging us to never stop searching for a good collaboration, to see the world through a new lens, to take risks, to believe in what makes each of us special and of course, to have fun.

A dear friend and neighbor of Lisa’s on Martha’s Vineyard, Nancy Aronie offers writing workshops that were an annual summer event for Lisa and everyone she could convince to join her. The process is simple, the results are extraordinary.

You begin with a simple prompt: When I Think about Lisa….

Write for ten minutes without stopping, thinking or censoring yourself.

Post your writing in the comments below this post or send to dgeaston@plexusinstitute.org

You are also welcome to share a drawing, poem, song or other media.

17 Comments  ·  Leave Comment

  1. When I think of Lisa, I think of her exceptional generosity: running the Plexus Institute and the DC Fractal. She connected so many people that there is an immeasurable world of ideas she helped spark. She leaves me with a vision of a future constantly coming into being, one filled with amazing people and unlimited opportunities to create goodness.

  2. When I think about Lisa, I can still hear her infectious laugh. I heard it first in Metasystems Design Group’s Arlington offices in the mid-1980s. Lisa essentially mentored me as I took on the task of developing “the nation’s first electronic policy network” for then-Senator Gary Hart’s new Center for a New Democracy. I visited MDG’s offices frequently to better understand the potential of this new medium to transform democratic processes, involve more citizens in policy development, and move issues onto the public agenda. But mostly I went for hits of the brilliance, generosity, openness, and creativity embodied in Lisa and other MDG folks. I was and remain awestruck by Lisa’s critical thinking and ability to gently nudge me to examine my assumptions and refine my purpose and objectives. Over the years, I contacted her for that kind of guidance when developing new initiatives.

    It wasn’t until I joined The Meta Network that I became aware of Lisa’s genius at conference moderation and facilitation. Observing her porting efforts and always-constructive and thoughtful contributions to online discussions in those early years influenced my approach to developing electronic advocacy networks to support the efforts of the Advocacy Institute, the American Cancer Society, and other public interest groups and government agencies in the late 1980s and early 1990s more than any other factor.

    In 2003, I returned to The Meta Network and joined an online community of women including Lisa. She continued to amaze all of us with the variety of new initiatives and partnerships through her involvement with the Plexus Institute as well as her ability and willingness to step in to address tensions that arose from time to time among community members. Knowing that she cared for the health of the community whether or not she happened to be participating actively always felt so reassuring. I will always appreciate her efforts to sustain the Spirit community and ensure that TMN moved to an acceptable new “home” when her health problems warranted that.

    Lisa’s brave and accepting spirit through the last few years of physical Hell inspired me all over again. You can read her posts in her Life Story on BSMN to get a better sense of this extraordinary woman. Your participation in that community would make her smile, I bet. I had the fortune to speak to Lisa on the phone this summer. Despite her physical limitations, her can-do spirit and curiosity remained strong. And she was still able to laugh.

  3. When I think of Lisa, I recall her energy, enthusiasm and zest for life…. especially her use of the term “juicy”. I have no doubt that she is organizing a group jazz event in other dimensions right now and staying curious about will happen next… peace to us all as we mourn our loss

  4. When I think about Lisa I think about how much Lisa thought about — breadth, depth, wise, funny, acerbic — her curiosity was energetic and indefatigable — Lisa was more interested in more dynamics in organizations, meetings, conversations and relationships than anyone I’ve worked with — you couldn’t budge her off a conviction except with a great question and then, wow, fasten your seat belt because that conversation was going to rev up!

    Lisa’s ability to work a room, hold a room, launch complex ideas and bring things to fruition is deservedly legendary. She did not suffer fools, gladly or otherwise, and did so in a kind and generous way. Lisa knew more kinds of people across more social strata, cultures, and time zones and it always amazes me how many paths in the networks I enter, run back to Lisa as a major network hub.

    I remember partnering with Lisa on some tough projects and going back to the hotel at night, scrapping the hard work planned for the next day, and starting over with a fresh sheet of paper because good enough wasn’t going to be good enough. Lisa’s stamina and passion came in equal measure and her clients were better for both, and so am I.

    There is a Lisa-shaped hole in my heart and life and I’ll miss her terribly.

  5. Shared stories via email

    Howard Rheingold:
    I met Lisa sometime in the late 1980s at a meeting of “The Electronic Networking Association.” I think Joi Ito was there, too. We hit it off and stayed in touch. I sometimes consulted with her when Rheingold Associates was helping organizations plan virtual communities. She visited me in California and I visited her in DC. In 1998, while sitting in my back yard, she urged me to use Caucus to experiment with yet another virtual community — Brainstorms, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in February. She had a great mixture of expertise, social conscience, and a sense of fun.

    Donna Gold:
    I and several of my colleagues at the National Education Association’s National Center for Innovation worked with Lisa primarily in the 90s.I recall her creative, innovative spirit, her can-do attitude, and her great sense of humor. I will always remember the twinkle in her eye when she was tackling a problem or facing a challenge. I greatly enjoyed working with her and respected her keen intelligence. She was one of those wonderful people who worked in the Washington milieu but never succumbed to the overlarge ego so often encountered here in spite of the many gifts she offered. Thank you Lisa for all you gave to us.

    Barrett Horn:
    Lisa played a significant role in the development of my OD work and though we only managed a few short times of actually being in the same location, those times made a large and even transformative impact on my OD practice.My heart goes out to John and to so many who looked to Lisa as a friend and mentor.

    Jane Rainwater:
    Lisa knew you could do stuff that you didn’t even know you could do. Her confidence in you made you confident that you could do almost anything. She was the best problem-solver on the planet. She made a network of friends and colleagues that is huge and permanent. We all loved her and will miss her more than words can ever express.

    Billye Adams: One of Lisa’s partners at MetaSystems Design Group
    I have been sort of stunned since I heard the news from Matt Minahan and Hope O’Keeffe a couple of days ago that Lisa had left this planet. So I finally came here tonight. And found you all, and so many wonderful expressions about what Lisa has meant and been. I wish she were here to enjoy it. But maybe she is….. if anyone ever ‘belonged’ online, it has been Lisa. She loved it. She drove it. She thrived on it. And brought so many people along with her, way back in what…. 1983, when online was all new and a wonder and we at MDG explained how these little packet of data sailed through the universe and lined up just like you had typed them in, and connect with someone else anywhere in the world. WOW. What days those were!!!!!!! A great, energetic and encompassing soul is gone and I feel very sad. And now the tears come. And it is good to be here in Lisa’s space with you all. I know she’s flying.

    Barbara Bunker:
    Lisa was not only a wonderful person but her creativity and contributions added greatly to our OD profession. I am sad that she is no longer in this world.

    Laura Gramling:
    I’ve always looked up to Lisa and have said “I want to be like Lisa when I grow up.” Her creativity, her ability to be relevant, her ability to be relatable, her ability to be present – as always inspired me. I want to provide that for my clients. That is what I strive for. It’s a space of being and action and non-action.

    Judah Pollack:
    Lisa had the extraordinary capacity to trust a group of people to find relevant, impactful, insightful answers all while sitting chill in a chair or moseying quiet around the room. Lisa taught me one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned, how to get out of the way. I have no doubt she is causing trouble in the after-world scoping out the self-organizing systems of spirits and suggesting some very useful APD’s she’s seen the devilish using. Likely putting Mexican folk art up everywhere as well. I’ll miss her combination of sly wit and open heart.

  6. When I think of Lisa I also think of John, her husband, and their warm creative household. The art and craft collections displayed within exhibited their joy and appreciation of the artistic contributions of people from around the world. We loved hearing Lisa enthusiastically describe anecdotes from their joint collecting trips and individual artworks. Her infectious spirit remains undiminished.

  7. Beverly H. Stanford Stearns
    When I think of Lisa, I think of her zest for living, her positive spirit, can-do attitude, keen intelligence, achievements in the field of leadership and collaboration, interests in others, and most of all her admirable bravery and determination to remain active in spite of the challenges her body forced on her.

    We shared being in the Literature Section of the Women’s Club of Chevy Chase, MD. She joined the club and Lit. Section in 2016 and quickly volunteered to be one the presenters for our monthly book selections. We all were dazzled by her presentation, not knowing of her scholarship and leadership in her professional life.

    At our December meeting in 2016 when we all shared our favorite books, she mentioned Tell Them Whom Am: The Lives of Homeless Women and Tally’s Corner: A Study of Streetcorner Men, both by Elliot Liebow. Her choices revealed to me that we were kindred spirits in our interests and concerns.

    In May 2017 I had a delightful visit with Lisa when she was recuperating from an injury. Our discussion in that 2-hour exciting visit focused on those interests and the form of research we both did and were doing, qualitative research. She helped me by nominating an excellent couple to participate in a study I conducting with my husband. And I was delighted to learn a lot about the work she had done in her field and to talk shop with a kindred spirit.

    I’m so grateful that I had some time with this amazing woman who was so beautiful inside and out.

    Beverly Hardcastle Stanford Stearns 11/14/2017

  8. When I heard the news, I posted the following on Facebook. It generated many comments and memories from the networks that we shared for the past 35 years:

    “A kind of emotional brilliance.” That’s what Douglass Lea said in response to a note about the terrible news of the death early this morning of Lisa Kimball. Lisa, the networker’s networker, so good at it that when the late Jeff Stamps and I wrote THE AGE OF THE NETWORK, we profiled her alone. She was brilliant in traditional ways and, as Doug says, in ways we all should be: emotionally, personally, connected-ly.

    She knew so much about so much: complexity theory, MetaNet, virtual teams, Martha’s Vineyard, online communication, GroupJazz, ice skating, the N Group, positive deviance, oysters, her husband John, Sarah Lawrence, Mexican wedding dolls, the Electronic Networking Association, and finally the horrible disease that started with an “a” [see note below] that none of us had ever heard of and which, in my grief, I can’t remember the name of. The treatment was brutal yet she soldiered on. And on.

    I was such a fan that she called me her agent. I begged her more than once to write a book.

    A few years ago, I was in Washington for something I can’t remember, and visited. We were headed out for oysters (we put away two dozen, by the way) but we had to wait for Lisa to take a work call. I was reading — kind of — but really eavesdropping as she was giving advice to a client. Brilliant advice.

    And she was so funny. So so funny.

    She was born one year and one day after I was and we spoke every year, typically on my birthday but not this past year. Regret is a road with no off-ramp.

    I’ll leave it here for now: All of us who love her can hear that giggly laugh and can feel her sparkle, even in the way she signed her name: * lisa.

    UPDATE: The disease is called Amyloidosis; very rare; no known cure. Thanks to Emily Reich Shem-Tov for remembering its name.

    UPDATE 2: adding a picture from Starfish Leadership page, with bio, which is here (http://starfishleadership.com/lisa-kimball-bio/):

  9. The smile. Her smile.
    the mysterious-contagious-gorgeous smile.
    the sitting in the back of the room, just watching, smiling, letting things unfold. Giving space and smiling at the process.
    the “letting people do their thing”, and facilitating sometimes with a word, with a question, or just rephrasing something that was just said with a deep, intense, thoughtful tone.
    I think o Lisa’s smile. It was the smile of “knowing”, and at the same time, the smile of “discovering” and “learning.
    When I think of Lisa…….I smile.

  10. It seems Lisa was always on my radar screen. When I was interested in teams, her work in Group Jazz came into focus. As complexity and networks and their implications caught my attention, Lisa was in the picture too. And so our relationship went from virtual to in person, and incidental to more intentional over 20 or so years. But what I recall most strikingly is her capacity to see in others what they might overlook in themselves. About 10 years ago she called on me twice as organizations she was involved in were seeking new senior leadership. She encouraged me to let her bring my credentials forward to the recruiting teams. What a vote of confidence! She was the standard for great leadership and vision. Not inclined towards gravitas. She took life lightly and with respect and confidence in an emerging future. Sadly, we will move into that future without her physically at our side. Her spirit will never fail to be here nevertheless.

  11. When I think about Lisa. . . .I think first of the look that always came to her face when she anticipated getting people into the “sandbox” of playing their way through a complex situation together. The barest hint of a smile as the corners of her mouth wanted to turn upwards, and the gleam in her eyes. Throughoutnthe years of her illness, in the times I saw Lisa, up through the collaborative songwriting workshop at her home, and the great Plexus conference in Bethesda that she wanted so very much, Lisa didn’t lose that spirit of possibility through people connecting in a playful way. It was the literal “Group Jazz” of our lives as we improvised within the boundaries of whatever situation we were in. Lisa constantly and brilliantly found the people – the wizards both literal, like magical presenter Andrew Bennet and figurative like so many more, to inspire and inform us. The methods she helped us all learn, like Positive Deviance, and Liberating structures, were always just the i steuments through which we would all create the new tunes of our possibilities together.

    Although I knew Lisa well for around 17 years, I regret that I didn’t act on the often-repeated urgings of my long-time friend Michael Esserman. For nearly 20’years, he kept twlli g me about this totally cool woman he encountered in an early online community, the Meta Network. Her name was Lisa. I was doing other stuff in my life back then, and it was only after encountering complex systems science in 1998, and Plexus a couple ofmyears later, that I met Lisa Kimball. Michael’s Lisa of all those years.

    Few people I know have done so much to connect so many for such good. I will almost certainly never meet another person quite like Lisa. You live on in all of us, and in these stories we tell, of times together remembered, and of the joy in it all.

  12. A great loss for all those who have benefited from being part of the Lisa’s life. What a fantastic legacy to have touched so many people around the world with inspiration via the Plexus team. Thank you for sharing.

  13. When I think of the loss of Lisa I am thinking Beckett–words aren’t the thing. Whatever it is that keeps people going at times like this may you all have plenty of it. She and I did a dialogue once for the Plexus newsletter around the mud two thousands. Her questions–us both probing for answers. You can’t do that without warmth and friendship and trust. One beautiful beautiful human being.

  14. “Amen” to all that is said above. I wish I’d known Lisa well enough to have said much of that.

    Years ago for reasons I can’t recall, I was in touch with Lisa on line…maybe connected to Frank Burns? Maybe virtual teams?. Anyhow, we’d had a fun and helpful exchange through email. One which made me want to talk with this woman again!

    Cut to an ODNet Conference in Phoenix. One afternoon I go to the hot tub. A big hot tub. Across the water, there are 3-4 others talking, having a good time. I’m sitting as far from them, trying not to be intrusive. Then one of them, a woman, throws a few comments in my direction…You know, Are you here for the ODNet? Then, Where are you from? Me: Seattle. Her: Geoff? Me: Lisa? At which point we wade to the middle of the tub for a big, wet hug accompanied by lots of laughter. Just a sweet moment.

    This morning my wife, Sheila, and I were in our hot tub in the Seattle rain. She was wearing the Group Jazz hat that Lisa gave me years ago. I always think of her.. What a joy. And more.

  15. When I Think about Lisa, she is instrumental to my second part of life till today.

    We first met online. She was so active there, in mid 80s, on The Source, CompuServe, EIES, etc. in what was called Computer Conferencing, in particular that of PARTI. I was making access from Tokyo. She was engaged with so many different topics, conversations, across different systems and services and disciplines, yet she was always right on target, accurate, and caring other participants with fun and sense of humor. She had beautiful visual mind map.

    It was July 1985 when I physically met her for the first time, at the porch of their house in Washington DC, with late Frank Burns, the founder of the Metasystems Design Group (MDG) which was running The Meta Net. She introduced me to the deep and wide world of online communications, Computer Conferencing, or electronic networking. With her introduction, I was able to visit many dedicated people in DC, New York, Boston, Denver and San Francisco Bay Area and came up a report on online community movement in the US, which led me to start a new kind of think tank in Japan, the Institute for Networking Design (IND) in 1986.

    She also helped us to promote online campaign for environmental movement of citizens trying to stop the construction of US Army housing in Ikego Hills of Zushi City in Japan, where I grew up.

    These are all precursor to the Virtual Community, Internet, and beyond. Since 1985, I started to visit her almost every year. Electronic Networking Association (ENA) had its first official meeting on November 1985, and I was lucky to be there.

    Together with John, she hosted many private parties at her house on our visits there, inviting her friends in DC circle, eventually getting to know the inner working of DC/US politics in particular. It was a great help especially after I joined CLOCOM (Center for Global Communications, International University of Japan) and engaged in the policy research of Information Society, cyber security, and Internet policy/governance issues during the 90s and 00s.

    I believe her greatest talent was connecting and inspiring people together, the way no others could come up. Online tools helped achieve this a lot, but it still remains in the physical, biological and human sphere where she was such a rich and helpful person.

    I owe her a lot, and so I miss her so much.

  16. I think about Lisa everyday!
    I miss her sooooo much even though we never met face to face!

    My last e-mail from her is dated May 2nd 2017.
    I had told her about a new project in which we are involved in a large medical center in Israel, and told her it was a great opportunity to reconnect with her and Plexus and she was there for me, as always , with good advice right away. Alas, she did not tell me she was sick…

    I had first met her on-line in The Knowledge Ecology Fair ( created by George Por ) in 1998 which was my first experience facilitating a workshop on-line – and she was there for me for a whole week supporting me around the clock in this new experience.
    I loved it so much that I suggested we do another full on-line conference together in 1999 – Knowledge in Action Online – and it was absolutely great thanks to her tender loving care and friendship.
    We tried to get together face to face since then and unfortunately it will never happen…
    I invited her to come to a conference we did on innovation as culture and she could not come and was sooooo kind to send us greeting on video
    I watch and miss her even more.
    She was sooooo kind and wise and generous and innovative and a great friend, for soooo many years and I wish I had the opportunity to hug her and thank her for everything she did for me…

  17. When I think of Lisa I think of the John Muir quote she had printed on the back of her business card: When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything IN THE UNIVERSE. I still have her card and still feel hitched to her.

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