Sec. Kerry, we dig emergence too

The Secretary of State has been thinking about emergence. In remarks at Yale University on May 18, John F. Kerry said the following:

"On Tuesday I sat in the State Department with some young Foreign Service officers at the State Department, and one of them said something to me that I’ve been thinking about, frankly, all week. He wasn’t much older than any of you. He said: 'We’ve gone from an era where power lived in hierarchies to an era where power lives in networks – and now we’re wrestling with the fact that those hierarchies are unsettled by the new power.'"

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at Yale on My 18, 2014. (

Much like Secretary Kerry, we think a lot about this at the -- how to operate in scalable networks of multidisciplinary teams as opposed to rigid, top-down hierarchies. We've touched on this dynamic a few times on the whiteboard, first in an interview with co-founder George Kembel and again in a piece by our fellowships director, Justin Ferrell. There's also Steven Johnson's book on the topic, Emergence.

The dynamic Secretary Kerry describes is essentially how the functions, bringing interdisciplinary teams together to learn and apply their expertise to problems and challenges. The local behaviors exhibited by small teams are replicated into complex systems of action. We even have a fellow from the Office of Personnel Management, Melissa Kline Lee, who is bringing this construct to bear on the way government works.

Mr. Secretary, in short, if you'd like to explore emergence more, we'd love to talk with you.