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Thursday Complexity Post
October 31, 2013  

Samba School Lessons for Leaders    


Business leaders can learn valuable lessons from the exuberant four day Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo and other big Brazilian cities, according to a scholar who has studied how people in samba schools prepare the elaborate floats and present imaginative themes and fabulous performances in music and dance. 

Carnival, with its festivals, costumes and parades coming just before Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter, has been celebrated in Brazil for centuries. Samba schools, whch compete for prestigious rankings of their Carnival entries, aren't teaching institutions as the name might imply. The Rio Service Carnival Travel and Tourism website explains that samba schools are more like social clubs, community organizations, and sometimes political groups, that also spend months of every year preparing for Carnival. They got started in the 1920s, the website says, among people from the Bahia state in eastern Brazil who came to the cities bringing the music and dance of their Candomble religion. Today's samba schools are big, complex organizations, and Alfredo Behrens, a professor of Global Leadership at Faculdade FIA de Administracao e Negocios in Sao Paolo, believes big corporations should pay heed to how they operate.


Behrens, whose most recent book is Shooting Heroes and Rewarding Cowards: A Sure Path Towards Organizational Disaster, studied Mocidade Alegre, a samba school that won first place in the Sao Paolo parade in 2012 and 2013. He interviewed people throughout the organization, including dancers, who have no managerial authority, members of a 250-man percussion orchestra known as a bateria, many directors and the school's president. He writes about his findings in his Harvard Business Review blog. He explains that referees judge the samba schools wins and rankings based on 10 criteria similar to key performance indicators (KPIs) used in the corporate world. 

While many samba school participants hold corporate day jobs, the put in long unpaid hours for Carnival preparation. Behrens says Mocidade members feel like family. He quotes Daniel Sena, the schools' director general of harmony, as saying winning is important, but the core of the school business is treating people nicely. "That's what makes people come back for the renewed challenges even after losing a parade," he told Behrens. Sena, who works in finance, thinks niceness is undervalued in the business world. A corporate mediator and samba coordinator told Berhens she'd seen "corporations discarding people as if they were garbage when they are past their prime" while samba schools "recycle" and respect their "oldies." Behrens says Mocidade is a closely-knit community with strong focus and great teamwork. It has more than 30 directors, who have considerable autonomy in their own projects. The president is a woman, newcomers are welcome, and the organization doesn't rely on conventional discriminatory ethnic and social hierarchies. Behrens thinks businesses in Brazil and elsewhere can be more successful if they learn how to build community and practice in ways that make people want to engage and work together. Read Behrens blog here. And see some fabulous photos in the Daily Mail.


Remember PlexusCalls!  

Nursing Network PlexusCalls

Wednesday, November 6, 1-2 PM ET

Complexity in Education, Leadership, Research, & Innovation 

Guests: Gail Mitchell and Nadine Cross   




This session will include a conversation between the two speakers about their involvement in five different projects that integrate complexity thinking with: education (pedagogy and eLearning), patient safety (Seeing the Forest), health coaching (developing and supporting 5 RNHCs in communities with persons living with diabetes and dementia), leadership and metaphor, and research-based drama on relationality and dementia. Each area will be started with a critical question and at least one understanding that emerges from the work about complexity thinking and its applicability. Guest speakers invite participants and listeners to participate in the conversation by sharing what ideas or what projects resonate with them in their work and how they might build on the ideas or take the ideas in a different direction.

Read their complete bios.  


Friday, November 8, 1-2 PM ET

Building Social Connections and Networks Among the Elderly 

Guests: Eli Stephanski   



In June, The Business Innovation Factory accepted a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to explore the "connected aging experience." What does this mean? Join the discussion with BIF's Elizabeth tephanski to learn more. BIF began exploring the aging experience in 2006 with its Nursing Home of the Future project and found that the health of our relationships often defined our aging experience and affected everything from eating to planning the day to making financial decisions. And yet, our cultural view of aging is one focused on deteriorating health and the increasing need for care. BIF sees a need for new models that are predicated on notions of health, fueled by relationships, and delivered on a promise of continued meaning and contribution. BIF is researching and interviewing elders with the experience in service and activism, digital life (video gaming, blogging), sports and other competition (sports or performance), entrepreneurship, parenting (grandparents providing primary care-giving for grandkids), work and professional life, and education as well as those living a connected retired life. BIF seeks interview subjects aged 65 and over in the Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Maine areas, and asks readers to share this survey with anyone who might be interested.


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


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