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Thursday Complexity Post
November 13, 2014

Interaction and Networking Vital in Global Business   


China's Haier Group, an appliance maker with a fast growing global market, interacts with customers to tailor its products to distinctive needs. It makes large washing machines for Pakistani robes, small ones for delicate garments, and a durable one for large hoses for washing vegetables on Chinese farms. It also sells water purifiers designed to remove specific pollutants in each of the 220,000 communities across China.


In an interview with Strategy+Business editor Art Kleiner, Haier CEO Zhang Ruimin explains how he took the top post at the company in 1984, studied business management and philosophy, and used his insights to transform a troubled operation into a leading producer of household goods and services. Kleiner writes that the Academy of Management invitation to Zhang to give the keynote address at its 2013 annual meeting signals that China "had produced its first philosopher-CEO." Zhang says Haier has a culture of continual self-questioning and entrepreneurial spirit.


After the arrival of the Internet Age, Zhang explained, the company eliminated hierarchical structure, got rid of most of middle management, shed 4,000 jobs, and created 2,800 small county organizations with seven or fewer people each. As the company becomes platform based, each part of the organization makes autonomous decisions, reaching out to customers, potential employees and collaborators. He wants to make the operation truly "borderless," and says in his vision the company no longer has an inside and an outside.


"We are using Internet technology to connect everyone," he told Kleiner. "As a Haier executive, my goal is no longer to be a maker of home appliances but to be an agent of interaction and networking among people who might be anywhere."


"In the long run," he said, "there won't be any company employees to speak of-only the Haier platform." His idea is, "Whoever is capable, come and work with us." That could include entrepreneurs, people who want to partner with the company, and customers engaged in the process of product development. As an example, he cites the Air Box, a Haier device that lets people use smart phones to control their environment inside a building by connecting to heating, cooling and air filtering devices. Customer input guided the company in having air conditioning units that test and monitor air cleanliness, and the company brought in Samsung and Apple to help meet user requirements. All Haier products are integrated with the internet and Zhang asserts "If a home appliance can't communicate with the Internet it shouldn't exist."


Zhang said the idea of a company as platform represents a stark contrast from past management practices. "It should allow us to bring in and integrate greater quantities of resources-all contributors will be able to enter unhindered," he said, adding that operating this way, "we at Haier are no longer the ones directing things. We are the glue binding everything together." He describes an interactive water quality platform as an example of how the company can perform that difficult task: it can collect and incorporate insights from water treatment companies around the world and resolve users' individual needs through direct interaction with them.


A Harvard Business Review blog by Mark Bonchek and Sangeet Choudary says in today's networked age, business competition is increasingly about having the best platform. The authors describe elements for successful platform strategies, with examples, and what they call platform thinking.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently told all employees that "At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world." Read his speech here. Read Kleiner's Strategy+Business piece here.




Remember PlexusCalls!



Healthcare PlexusCalls

Wednesday, November 19, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Engaging Families and Communities to Co-Create Innovations in Healthcare 
Guests: Bill Doherty and Bill Adams                  


Health care transformation has begun to identify the need to create solutions with community members, not for them. There is increased recognition that the traditional professional expert and provider/consumer models are inadequate for solving many of the problems confronting us. This session will focus on the emerging role of the "citizen professional" who works alongside other citizens to co-create new ways to address health care challenges. You will learn about a field-tested process called Citizen Health Care for constructing non-hierarchical working groups of professionals and other citizens. Using a number of examples, including a new initiative called Baby Boomers for Balanced Health Care, you will hear how professional and citizen perspectives and energies can create innovations in health care. Read the guests complete bios.     




Friday, November 21, 2014- 1-2 PM ET
Evaluation, Organizational Development and Narrative: A Complex Trio
Guests: Michael Quinn Patton and Alan Barstow 


In initiatives designed for social change, the right kind of evaluation can help reach the goal. People using developmental evaluation integrate creativity and critical thinking as they discover what works and what doesn't. The process requires knowledge of contextual history, identity, relationships and values, and narrative that clarifies the meaning of experiences and outcomes. The 4th edition of Michael Quinn Patton's Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods comes out on the day of this call. Join the conversation! Read the guests complete bios

Healthcare PlexusCalls

Wednesday, December 17, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Embracing Complexity: Managing Treatment-Related Symptoms During and After Cancer Treatments
Guests: Noah Zanville, Sarah Shockley and Christine Cote                   


Cancer remains a leading cause of death for individuals in the U.S., but has increasingly become a disease patients can survive, thanks to a growing arsenal of effective treatments. For patients today, this arsenal includes cutting-edge surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biologics and immune-modulating drugs. Together, this collection of treatments is helping more and more patients to fight, and win, their battle against cancer. Unfortunately, many of these treatments can also lead to side-effects that can disrupt patient's transition back to wellness and, in some cases, threaten their ability to finish their cancer treatment. This tension between treatments that heal and treatments that harm is a major theme in oncology, and is made worse by the fact that in many cases, there are no treatments for these side-effects. Social factors like an aging population, increasing pressure to stay in the workforce and spiraling healthcare costs further underscore the need to help patients, their families, and their providers to manage treatment-related symptoms during and after cancer treatment.

Noah, Sarah and Christine will join the call for a roundtable conversation about the challenges of cancer treatment and what "embracing a complexity perspective" might look like in the everyday care of cancer patients. Please bring your voice and your own experience to this important conversation. Read the guests complete bios.      



See all upcoming PlexusCalls on the Plexus Calendar. Subscribe to the PlexusCalls or Healthcare PlexusCalls podcasts. Or, visit the Community section of for the audio archive.  


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