Cultivating FlowsCultivating Flows:
How Ideas Become Thriving Organizations

Jean M. Russell and Herman E. Wagter

 The Internet has transformed the way we live and work – by unleashing the power of shared ideas, the power of instant communication, the power of cooperation while being separated by time and distance.

If the old idea of an organisation as a static machine, run hierarchically and designed for predictability, ever worked – it doesn’t work now. Now that the brakes are off, we see torrents flow:  vast flows of data, information, and knowledge; flows of influence and innovation; flows of ideas and people… once you notice them, it’s increasingly clear that “forms and flows” of ideas and information overwhelm  the “structures and processes” we were once comfortable with.

The force of shared ideas and information is clear: they shape how we organize ourselves. The challenge is to guide this force, to cultivate valuable flows, to nurture shared ideas into thriving organizations, to develop concepts and language to methodically approach this challenge.

Countless business start-ups, hybrid organizations and even conventional companies are frantically learning how to work with flows – there is no guidebook. Which is why Jean Russell and Herman Wagter, both long active in this field, set out to interview business pioneers and founders, researchers, practitioners, investors and others with experience of how flows work and how to shape them.

In Cultivating Flows (not ‘Managing Flows’!) they pull together that experience, and their own, to explain how flows work and how best to work with them.

  • They take us through key stages of development like Reframing, Navigating, Operationalizing and Iterating.
  • They introduce us to key concepts like Emergent, Networked, Event-Driven (ENE) efforts; Social Technology, Social Protocols, and Social Organisms; Process Hierarchies; and Coherence
  • They offer us a dozen, detailed Use-Cases of social flows in action.

And behind it all they’re building a unique resource of interviews, articles, case studies and experience in a website that supports this book.

For anyone seeking to start, join, reimagine, reshape, update, or “run” an organization or a movement in this exciting new world, Cultivating Flows is a kind of gardener’s manual, an indispensable resource and an inspiration.


If you want to understand, engage, disrupt, create, innovate, and, best of all, transform, the social flows in organizations and communities, flows that are mediated by people—social flows—then this book is for you.

The intended audience is primarily:

  • members (and leaders) of a consortium or other multi-stakeholder collaborations
  • cross-sector collaborators or facilitators
  • community development innovators, online and offline
  • organizational design innovators and entrepreneurs
  • software developers for the above

See More at:

– And at: http://www.triarchypress.net/cultivating-flows.html#sthash.vNwEozhV.dpuf

Thrivability: Breaking Through to a World that Works


Thrivability: Breaking Through to a World that Works, Triarchy Press, October 2013.

Jean Russell’s inspiring and visionary new book begins:
“Something about thriving speaks to our inner sense of harmony, abundance, greatness, generativity, aliveness, vitality, well being, and right-placement. What would our lives and the sum of our society be like if we said they were thriving? I want that. Intensely. Coming across this word was like finding the name of my homeland. The one name that captures all the things I want for myself, my family, my community, the organizations I work with, and the world as a whole.”

The book sets out to challenge the ‘breakdown thinking’ [conThink] that focuses only on defensive reactions to the economic, social, political, and environmental crises and catastrophes we face.

In its place she proposes ‘breakthrough thinking’ [altThink]: an approach that recognizes the gritty reality but enables us to envision and co-create a world of wellbeing and health.

Part I – Perceiving – looks at the stories we tell about our world and our limited ways of perceiving it. It shows how we can look at the bigger picture, recognise our blinkers/blinders and introduces the key ideas of systems and complexity thinking in this area.

Part II – Understanding – outlines new tools for understanding ourselves and the social and data revolutions we are part of. It looks in particular at behavioural economics, human irrationality, leadership, organisational and social structures and data metrics.

Part III – Doing – sets out ways we can take action together to create the world of the possible, a thriving world, a world that works. This section focuses on creativity, game dynamics (how to gamify the tasks we need to accomplish as individuals and as a society) and the Action Spectrum – a way of understanding how we can most effectively make interventions in any situation.

The  book is peppered with references, practical questions and exercises to bring thriving to your organization and way of life.


This is genuinely a transformational book. It was written with ‘ordinary people’ and organisations in mind:

  • If you work at any level in an organisation it will help you see how you can change your approach to work, change the way that those around you think and behave and even start to change the whole ethos of your business.
  • But it’s also a book that could turn upside down the mindset and thinking of a college student, a young parent, someone approaching retirement or an elder in our society. It could be read in government, in college or in an old people’s home. It really is one of those books that could start change anywhere.

– See more at: http://www.triarchypress.net/thrivability.html#sthash.62ZNmwOX.dpuf


Other Books, Booklets, and Essays

The Social Era: The Rise of Thrivability in Organizational Design (page 25), Spanda Journal, June 2014.

Thrivable Education, essay with Alexander Laszlo in Dawn of the Akashic Age, released May 20, 2013.

LEAD: Leading Conversations that Matter, booklet in draft, project on hold.

Designing for Social Flows, collection of essays and interviews on designing social ecosystems, draft in editing, coming 2016 with Triarchy Press.

Action Spectrum, book in process (90% second draft) with co-author.


I produced a quarterly newsletter in the donor education sector for 5 years.

Interview with John HagelGathering 11, May 2011.

Youth Giving Circles, a workbook for engaging youth in philanthropy by Inspired Legacies, Co-editor, 2008

Inspired Philanthropy, contributor, 2007.

Donor education materials and websites, 2003-2009.

Child survival materials and websites, 2003-2005.

Text and TerritoryMediations Journal, Volume 22, Spring 1999.

Grant writing for art museum, 1996-1998.

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