Sunday, March 04, 2007

Network Weavers in Action

The most exciting part of my consulting this last year has been realizing how many "natural" network weavers are already at work in communities and organizations. Listening to their stories, I'm discovering on a much deeper level what it means to be a network weaver.

For example, Jon Lloyd was trying to tackle MRSA, the deadly resistent staph infection that has been spreading through hospital systems. As a type of network weaver we call an Innovation Seeker, Jon went looking beyond the usual sources for insights that would help hospitals in Western Pennsylvania deal with MRSA. He found a Fast Company article that told about the Sternin's, a couple that had developed a strategy called Postitive Deviance in their efforts to end starvation among children in Vietnam. It helps organizations identify what's working and then enables people to self-organize to experiment and spread successes. He also pulled in staff of Plexus Institute, which is helping people apply complexity theory to solve intractable problems.

Quite a leap from MRSA to Vietnam and complexity science--but that's what Innovation Seekers do: they see connections and patterns in unlikely places. The application of Positive Deviance in this new setting has dramatically lowered MRSA rates in the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration Hospital System in just over a year. In addition, it's unleashing the creativity of housekeeping staff and patients, who are coming up with many of the most powerful solutions!

For more on the Pittsburgh experiments, see the latest issue of Emerging at Plexus Institute's site.