BEATING THE CLOCK

Faster response = more lives saved

Client: Large Federal Government Organization 

Challenge: Infectious disease research units, networked throughout Africa, needed to find new ways to identify, communicate and stop the spread of deadly diseases such as Ebola.

Outcome: Research units were facilitated in developing a new protocol for rapid knowledge creation and sharing, which broke down psychological power-barriers between field researchers and lead scientists.

Discovery: After conducting interviews with senior leaders, I developed a survey of 15 items to identify how researchers in the field communicate and reflect upon information with senior scientists. The questions centered on the needs expressed by senior leaders, but also drew from my expertise in organizational learning. The survey demonstrated that 70% of both field researchers and senior leaders did not know about reflective practice, but instead focused mainly on information sharing. The blame for not being able to speed up response time, from an already impressive speed, were found in this survey to be mainly external, including: funding, limited space, not enough development, lack of focus, organization and decision making skills. However it was one answer on the survey that inspired the deepest dialogue, which led to an epiphany regarding a problematic assumption: "Due to the diversity of teams in terms of age, educational levels and gender, it is sometimes challenging to hold the team together."

Dialogue: Results of the survey led to a deeper facilitated discussion in Nairobi, Kenya with 23 representatives from both groups from throughout Africa. After exploring deeper assumptions about who is ultimately responsible for creating knowledge from data, and where power for drawing conclusions rests, we found that faster turnaround time for knowledge creation and sharing occurred in units that not only emphasized equal voice, but also used  protocols that considered all members to be co-creators of knowledge

Epiphany: .In order to create knowledge that is reliable, useful and insightful we must often seek perspectives outside of our own; in this case the perspectives of field researchers hold the same value as lead scientists despite the difference in educational levels. By having both sides present at the drawing board, we were able to surface this problematic assumption and replicate processes being utilized by units who created strong conditions for mutual discovery.

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