Phil Willburn – Networked Leadership

Creating Contained Chaos: Interview with author Ori Brafman

For 5 years I was the director of Social Network Analysis (SNA) at a university inside the intelligence community teaching students how to better identify influencers inside terrorist, smuggling, and organized-crime networks (to see some ideas about how to indentify influncers inside org network check out my previous post Make Leaders Contagious).

One of the books I used in teaching this subject was Ori Brafman’s The Starfish & The Spider Essentially, it’s about the adaptability of decentralized systems (like terrorist networks) and how they respond to events like an attack or a sudden change. When I started teaching SNA in the intel space, the common belief was that if you took out the leader of a terrorist cell, the network would die or significantly degrade. That is not the case (and one of the reasons why we weren’t getting the results when wanted early on in the Iraq war), the formal or informal leader is easily replaced in decentralized systems like the networks we were targeting.

I used this book to help my intel students think differently about the types of interventions they wanted to do (or could do) to a decentralized network. So along with the technical side of SNA, we discussed targeting interventions and strategies using many of the principles from The Starfish & The Spider.

I was super excited to see that Ori had a new book out focused on helping large centralized companies become more adaptable and innovative (because that’s a lot of what I’m doing now). So I reached out to him and did a quick interview via Google Hangouts to see what the book was all about: here is my interview.

I love the idea of creating “contained chaos” inside organizations to help them become more adaptable and innovative. Network Analysis could and should help identify pockets of the organization ripe for a little chaos – or it could identify clusters of people who need to some unusual suspects – think about connecting or bringing to together two completely separate network clusters – or the key influencers from the 5 largest clusters and let me them have a conversation. I see lots of synergy here between what we can do with network analysis – and helping organizations become more adaptable.

Discussion (2)

There are 2 responses to “Creating Contained Chaos: Interview with author Ori Brafman”.

  1. This is a great interview. I like the idea of “contained chaos.” It is so important for organizations to adopt methods to encourage diversity of thought in their organization. Adaptability to new ideas and ways of thinking is essential for organizational survival. Thanks for the interview – going to check out the book now.

    • Beth – it’s a great book – and i think it is really critical for any large institution that need to innovate, adapt, or radically change. Plus there are a great set of facilitation techniques that help leaders disrupt from the inside out (or the bottom down). check out http://liberatingstructures.com/ for the facilitation techniques and this institute http://www.plexusinstitute.org/ for the thinking behind it, btw they are based out of DC.

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