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Thursday Complexity Post
April 17, 2014

Big Data: Challenges, Changes, and Visions   


Big data, the combined billions of pieces of information available electronically, can be expected to change the whole realm of managerial decision making, according to Tom Davenport, a business analyst and the President's Distinguished Professor in Management and Information Technology at Babson College.


Davenport, the author of Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities, describes the challenges and changes he anticipates in an interview with Strategy+Business. For starters, much of the data used in big data analysis is unstructured, which means it takes considerable time and effort to get it into a format that allows for analysis, and even then it's not always easy to get shades of meaning. Another problem, he says, the sheer speed and volume of data make it hard for businesses to use it for decision making.


Companies that can develop high speed decision making capabilities in response to the speed of big data will be taking a big step forward, he told the magazine. He notes that Peter Drucker warned 20 years ago that corporate IT's reliance on internal data created a dangerous focus on inward costs and efforts. But big data will create a healthier focus, Davenport says, because so much of it comes from external sources-from social media, data gathered from macro economics, science, politics and weather. Companies that learn how to include this external data in their models for decision making will have better ideas on how successful particular products and marketing campaigns might be.


For example, Davenport cites the company Recorded Future, which scans vast amounts of information on the Internet-news publications, government web sites, financial data bases, trade publications and blogs-and analyzes content to forecast future events.


Davenport notes intelligence agencies use Recorded Future data to assess potential for terrorism, and private companies use it to evaluate their competition, their present and potential markets, and changes among customers or suppliers that might impact their success.


Big data may produce surprising changes in healthcare. Technology experts expect that wearable devices that record and monitor people's bodily functions will increase quantity and potential uses of data in health data bases. Social media is already a rich source of new heath information. In a recent New York Times column, economist Eduardo Porter described research indicating analysis of the way a woman used the first person singular in her Twitter posts provided an uncannily accurate prediction of her odds of suffering post partum depression. Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology and Microsoft analyzed two years Twitter posts from four cities in Mexico and identified numbness and other mental health issues among bystanders who had witnessed violence resulting from activities of drug cartels. They said the findings had potential to provide mental health resources and other aid to impacted groups and communities.  





Liberating Structures Workshop   

May 29-30 - Washington, DC 



Smart leaders know that they would greatly increase productivity and innovation if only they could get everyone fully engaged. The challenge is how. Liberating Structures are novel, practical and effective methods to help you accomplish this goal with groups of any size. During this roll-up-your-sleeves immersion workshop, participants will learn and immediately practice 10-12 Liberating Structures while receiving tips on how to implement them in the workplace and traps to avoid. Event flyer (pdf). 1-day, $150. 1 1/2-day, $200. Attendance limited to 100. ebook now available!

Who should attend? Tired of the same conversations with no action? Need to get unstuck? Leaders, designers, consultants, managers, and anyone ready for action will benefit from Liberating Structures! That means you! 



Leading Adaptive Change Healthcare Workshop
May 5-7 - Philadelphia, PA

Please join us on May 5-7 in Philadelphia for a new workshop, Leading Adaptive Change, and leave with approaches for engaging your organization to tackle stubborn challenges in patient safety. Too often, patient safety and quality improvement efforts fail because they focus on technical changes-such as introducing new tools and technologies-without addressing the values, beliefs and attitudes of the group involved in the work. This three-day program provides participants with concrete methods and tools for adaptive change.




Remember PlexusCalls!



Friday, April 25, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Mentoring Military Women 
Guests: Heather Gunther, Michelle Alderson, and Lisa Kimball


The U.S. Army is making more positions gender neutral, but women are still a minority in the rank and file and an even smaller minority in leadership. The new Women's Mentorship Network (WMN) at Fort Hood, Texas, is designed to cultivate capable, resilient and confident women leaders who will enrich the armed forces with their abilities as new leadership opportunities arise.


Heather Gunther, one of the creators of the new network, is an active duty Army Signal Corps officer assigned to 3d Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood Texas. She was commissioned from West Point in 2002 and has served with the 1st Infantry Division and the 7th Signal Brigade in Tikrit, Iraq and at Mannheim, Germany. Heather holds a B.S. from the United Stated Military Academy, an M.S. in Information Technology, and is currently working on a doctoral thesis on women in the military. 


Michelle Alderson, A WMN colleague, is an active duty Medical Service Corps officer assigned to the 3d Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. Michelle graduated from West Point in 2009, where she earned her commission and a lifelong passion for lifesaving. Michelle served with the 1st Cavalry Division during a yearlong combat tour to Maysan, Iraq. Her experiences with battlefield trauma and emergency medicine have inspired her to become a physician. Michelle will attend medical school starting this August.


Lisa Kimball, PhD is an entrepreneur with more than 30 years experience as an organizational consultant with business, government and nonprofit organizations. As CEO of Metasystems Design Group and Executive Producer of Group Jazz, she supported the efforts of teams, task forces, communities and organizations and helps them leverage the power of technology and social media.


Before coming to Fort Hood, Major Gunther had been at the Army's general staff college at Fort Leavenworth. While there, she participated in a 2011 leadership development program with Ori Brafman, the author of The Starfish and the Spider. a book about successful organizations that are decentralized and adaptive. She also met Lisa Kimball, and later conferred with Lisa and Ori about the WMN. Heather and her colleagues decided to infuse the new venture with some of the processes and practices that had inspired participants in the groups at Fort Leavenworth.




Friday, May 9, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Creating Change with Liberating Structures 
Guests: Henri Lipmanowicz and Liz Rykert        


In their new book, The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures, Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz, both experienced in business and skilled facilitators, describe what they term "simple rules to unleash a culture of innovation." Skyscrapers, bridges, and the operating policies and principles that organizations have designed for long term use are big durable structures that aren't easily changed. The routines and events in our daily lives-the meetings, seating arrangements, mealtime rituals, conversational exchanges, and the questions we ask are structures too. The authors call them microstructures. Everything we do takes place in some structure, and the Henri and Liz will discuss some quick and easy changes in microstructures that can have a powerful impact.  


Henri Lipmanowicz retired from Merck in 1998 after a 30-year career during which he progressed from Managing Director in Finland to President of the Intercontinental Region and Japan (The world minus the US and Western Europe) and a member of Merck Management Committee. In 2000 Henri co-founded the Plexus Institute and served as Chairman of the Board until 2010. Born in Carcassonne, France, Henri holds a MS degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Columbia University and a MS degree in Chemical Engineering from France. His career gave him the opportunity to live in seven countries and made him a perpetual world traveler. He resides in the US with his Finnish wife; their joy in their seven grandchildren is beyond their wildest expectations. Henri's previous passion was building organizations where people thrived and were successful beyond their wildest expectations. His current passion is the development of Liberating Structures and their dissemination across all five continents. One passion follows naturally the other since Liberating Structures make it possible for people to build organizations where they thrive and are successful beyond their expectations.


Liz Rykert is the President of Meta Strategies which she founded in 1997. Her company is a Toronto-based strategy group working in complex organizational change and digital technology. The consulting and technological services include: change work and innovation, large system transformation, coaching and facilitation; web work including strategy, online community, website design and programming; and network development, visualization and analysis. Liz is also an associate with Ignite Consulting Services at University Health Network - Canada's largest teaching hospital network. Liz is a practitioner of engagement methods such as Liberating Structures. She practices Developmental Evaluation on the highly uncertain and emergent projects she works on to carefully track and monitor progress and impact. Liz is a graduate from Ryerson's Social Work program. She works with health systems with a focus on culture change and human interaction as part of large systems change to improve patient safety. Liz was a member of the team for the Canadian research project on Positive Deviance and was a faculty member for the Canadian Patient Safety Institute - Stop Infections Now Collaborative. Liz also coaches four hospitals in the New York State based Bordering on Zero Collaborative sponsored by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Liz is a student of complexity science and a big believer in the power of networks.


Audio from all PlexusCall series is available by searching the iTunes store for plexuscalls. Or, visit under Resources/Call Series. 


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