Volunteering in the Polyclinic Pan Am Games Toronto 2015

Canada Day was my first volunteer shift in the Polyclinic in the PanAm Athletes Village Polyclinic. If you don’t know what a Polyclinic is, you’re not alone. My understanding is that it is a European term that denotes a health/medical clinic that provides a wide variety of services – thus “poly” from the Greek meaning “many”. In this case, many services.

The PanAm Polyclinic provides all kinds of services from Family Medicine to a fully-stocked ER, Specialty Services such as Dermatology, Cardiology, Dental, Optometry – Bochner Eye Institute and Loblaws are donating time, expertise and hundreds of pairs of glasses for the teams – and of course, full Sports Rehab Services (Physio, Massage, Chiropractic, and Sports Medicine, Physiatry).

There is also a Public Health office staffed with City of Toronto nurses to deal with any outbreaks or other public health concerns – there are thousands of condoms on all the services desks for the taking – they are snapped up quietly by many – and not just the athletes!

I am one of 3000 volunteers in the Health/Medical Services at the Polyclinic and the many Competition Venues and Fields of Play across the Games. There are about 6500 participating athletes from 41 different Pan American countries, competing in 36 different sports.

Planning has been in the works for 6 years and has involved 16 different communities surrounding Toronto the north, west and east. According to the Chief Chef for the Games, 500,000 meals will be served in the Athletes’ Village alone. These Games are the largest multi-sport event ever hosted in Canada. The cost for public security and traffic management is in the neighbourhood of $250M.

If you watched the Opening Ceremonies Friday night – or better still were actually there, you’ll know that it’s all very exciting for Toronto!

.

Thinking about Occam’s Razor

While watching an episode of Madame Secretary the other night, I was interested to hear the main character mention Occam’s Razor as she wrestled with a complex issue and the need to get at the variables, understand them and make decisions about how to proceed. Knowing my interest in complexity and complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory, a friend told me about Occam’s Razor awhile ago. I had never come across it before, despite lots of reading about complexity and complex systems – obviously not reading the right things, Ann! Thanks.

Wikipedia tells us that Occam’s Razor (which is also sometimes written as Ockham’s Razor) is a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham in the 13th C – believe it or not. William was a respected English Franciscan friar, philosopher and theologian.

The principle of Occam’s Razor states that among competing hypotheses which predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove to provide better predictions, but—in the absence of major differences – the fewer assumptions that are made, the better – according to the theory.

Called also the Law of Parsimony, it tells us to KISS or keep it simple, and not over-complicate. This of course makes a lot of sense and it also reminds us to quantify, qualify and verify our assumptions. Wikipedia goes on to say “ For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there is always an infinite number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypothesis to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are better testable and falsifiable.”

The fact that we are still considering William of Ockham’s ideas, 7 centuries later boggles the mind, and makes me question how much more we know or don’t know today than we did centuries ago.

It also makes me wonder about the fit between Occam’s Razor and complex adaptive systems’ theory. This is for another time.

Amazing Sights at Makakatana Bay Lodge

We’re at Makakatana Bay Lodge in the northern part of Kwa Zulu Natal on the banks of Lake St Lucia not far from Swaziland. Having some wonderful viewings of giraffe, water buffalo, zebra, rhino, warthog families and many kinds of antelope with a fantastic guide named Riley who is both very knowledgeable and excited about his work. He’s also a great bartender and cook. We’ve had evening drinks with him on the savannah as well as a fantastic outdoor breakfast at the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park north of the Lodge in Zululand and surrounded by lovely hillside residences and small villages. We left the lodge about 5 this morning to travel to this famous park where there is lots to see.

On the day we arrived at the lodge we took a wrong turn and before we knew it we had glimpses of giraffe, zebra, warthogs and tons of colourful birds. It was very exciting to see these animals in the wild and protected. We spent one evening with this large lone bull elephant just watching him as the sun set and he wandered the plains. At a couple of points you’d swear he knew he was giving us a thrill – he was only 20 feet from our truck – and he seemed to pose for us. Riley was full of interesting information and knew just how close to get so as not to scare or disturb him but to give us a good sighting.

One of the pictures below is of Dung Beetles which live in elephant dung. Thanks to Louwrena, Riley’s colleague who taught us about these interesting creatures and actually had us hold them and their dung balls. The elephants wander the roads at night near the lodge – they come to eat from the trees and one night devoured the year’s crop of mangoes! By morning their dung is full of beetles which will live and reproduce in the dung – as well as recycle the dung into useful products for the ecosystem…a form of symbiosis. They are extremely efficient. Researchers found that a 1.5 km of dung attracted 16 thousand beetles who disposed of it in under 2 hours.

Having a wonderful trip and meeting many interesting people with lots of insight in to this wondefully complex country.

20120204-224624.jpg

20120204-224822.jpg

20120204-225013.jpg

20120204-225230.jpg

Leadership Strategies for a Complex Environment

• Minimize unnecessary rules
• Foster diverse relationships
• Enhance information flow, embrace paradox, and surface tensions
• Focus on action instead of plans and designs
• Build incrementally from simple systems that work
• Recognize and engage diversity in expertise, values and perspectives
• Decrease centralized control and support self-organization
• And Trust the Process!

Leading in Complex Systems

Health care leaders have begun to adapt to the complexities, ambiguities and paradoxes that are now the norm in healthcare.

It is more and more apparent that the emerging field of complexity science offers important strategies for leading in chaotic, complex healthcare environments. A 2001 survey by Burns found that healthcare leaders intuitively support principles of complexity science and understand the value of complex adaptive systems as a model for leading and managing in healthcare environments.

Leadership that uses complexity principles offers opportunities to focus less on prediction and control and more on fostering relationships and creating conditions in which complex adaptive systems can evolve and produce creative outcomes.
Continue reading “Leading in Complex Systems”