Complexity Science: The Science of Change

  • 12 Apr 2012
  • 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • University of St. Thomas, 1000 LaSalle Ave., UST TMH 252 Terrance Murphy Hall


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About the Program

Complexity science is the science of change – a rich source to tap for insights about the dynamics and patterns associated with the changes we face in our organizations and communities. But how can we take these powerful theoretical ideas and use them in our day-to-day practice? A portfolio of interaction designs for engagement based on key principles from the complexity framework have been discovered, defined and developed. These “Liberating structures” enable us to design and facilitate engagements that literally CHANGE THE CONVERSATION about the nature of a problem and the possibilities for solutions. Like jazz and improvisation, these methodologies for interaction are made up of simple rule sets that produce and support creativity and make it easy for everyone to be fully engaged. Liberating structures facilitate new patterns of engagement such as self-organization and bottoms-up leadership.

Participants in this session will have the opportunity to discover complexity principles at play in some familiar group processes like Open Space and Appreciative Inquiry. We’ll also try out some new engagement designs that can have significant impact with very small interventions. Finally, participants will be invited to develop plans that they can use in their own upcoming work. The primary objective of the session is to offer participants a new way of thinking about design that can dramatically increase options for facilitating high impact engagement.


Lisa Kimball

About the Presenter

Lisa Kimball

Lisa Kimball, is President, Plexus Institute. She is an actionary known for her ability to help organizations tackle complex challenges by changing the conversation about problems and potential solutions. She has worked for more than 30 years with clients including government agencies, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions to design and facilitate organizational change and development efforts involving diverse stakeholders. Lisa pioneered the development and application of Liberating Structures, a mash up of open source methods that make high engagement practical, exciting, and fun! She has deep experience facilitating processes from Positive Deviance, Open Space, Design Research, Appreciative Inquiry, and Dialogue. An early adopter of social network applications and founder of Group Jazz Lisa speaks all over the world about leveraging networks for social change and innovation. Her doctoral research in cognition and learning focused on problem solving strategies of senior executives in complex systems. She was part of the research team that developed the selection and training framework for the US Federal Senior Executive Service and is currently working with officers in the US Army to develop their capacity to use Liberating Structures at the core of their leadership approach.

Some current projects:

Starfish Leadership

Lisa is collaborating with Ori Brafman, author of The Starfish and the Spider, to produce highly interactive and experiential programs for leaders incorporating cutting edge ideas including:

  • Developing and leading networked organizations
  • Using the complexity framework to understand organizational dynamics
  • Innovation and design thinking
  • Liberating structures to engage everyone across organizational boundaries
  • Trust based collaboration

This program has been delivered for officers in the US Army for the past 2 years. Comments from participants included:

"I learned more about my own personal leadership and where I lead from during Starfish than I did in three tours as a company grade leader in Iraq."

"A life changing experience, unlike any leadership development program in the Army today."

"I am an order of magnitude better as a leader as a result of being part of this process"

Social Network Mapping and Development

Networks are ubiquitous and research into the operation and structure of networks is exploding. Lisa is involved in a number of projects helping organizations explore and use Social Network Maps to understand the dynamics of their internal and external relationships and help create healthier communities and foster innovation.

Adaptive Change in Healthcare

Lisa has led pioneering work with hospitals and health care facilities applying Positive Deviance methodology to the problem of eliminating transmission of hospital acquired "superbug” infections. CDC Analysis found that Plexus Institute’s unique social and behavioral intervention helped reduce MRSA rates Up To 62% in study hospitals. In 2010, Plexus Institute brought together a network of hospitals and researchers that achieved designation by US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as an Action Network to promote innovation in health care delivery by accelerating the diffusion of research into practice.

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