Our History

The Pluralistic Networks’ team has over 30 years of practical experience in how human beings coordinate action, build trust and innovate. At the core of our work is a question that Dr. Fernando Flores, our founder, asked over three decades ago: how do human beings work together? Dr. Flores and his colleagues challenged the assertion that when people communicate, they simply pass information back and forth. Instead, they proposed that people get things done -- sharing interpretations, and making commitments to each other that take care of their concerns -- thereby changing the status of their work, their world and their future expectations and possibilities. By combining the disciplines of philosophy, linguistics, computer science and management, Dr. Flores and his colleagues developed a unique theory of work and organizations which has had numerous practical applications and led to the creation of a number of companies, including: Business Design Associates, a pioneering management consulting firm in the areas of business process design, leadership, and teamwork; Logonet Inc., an educational organization that coached over 20,000 people in Dr.Flores’ conversation for action methodology; and Action Technologies, (co-founded with Dr. Terry Winograd), an early leader in the creation of groupware and workflow software.

Theoretical Framework

Dr. Flores' PhD dissertation, as further elaborated with Dr. Winograd in Understading Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design, proposed that we view organizations as sets of human transactions which he labeled "networks of directives and commissives". Directives, such as requests and offers, are spoken acts that attempt to prompt the person being spoken to perform some action. Commissives are spoken acts where the person being spoken to commits to some future course of action. Dr. Flores' theory of management shows how certain speech acts, particularly requests, promises, offers, and declarations, serve as building blocks for activating commitments in organizations. At the core of his work is that a small, finite set of Speech Acts serve as a "periodic table" of the elements of coordination that is a generic and powerful foundation for design, no matter how complex the business process.

Speech Act What is the Action For example. . . What does it produce?
Declare A speaker declares a new world of possibilities for action in a community “We are founding a new company called IBM that will provide . . . to customers.” “We are going to lay off 10% of the staff.” “An enterprise is a network of commitments.” Leadership and a new context for action for taking care of the concerns of the community that listens to the declaration and makes it effective
Request A speaker asks a listener to take care of something that the speaker is concerned about. “Can you get my a flight to Boston in time for my meeting?” An application for a mortgage conveys a request. Commitment to action.
Offer/Promise A speaker offers or promises to take care of something that a listener is concerned about. “Would you like some dessert?” “I’ll prepare report by next Wednesday on that.” Commitment to action.
Assess A speaker assesses how some action or thing relates to specific concerns or commitments. “We are in a mature industry.” “Our customers are happy.” “John is impatient.” “Our educational system is not adequately preparing our children for the world they live in.” “Our costs are increasing.” Preparation for Action: orientation, interpretations, and attitudes towards actions or situations.
Assert A speaker asserts (i.e., reports) facts pertinent to the concern at hand. It meeting is at 4p.m.PST. The board is white. The gauge reads 200psi. Our sales were $4.2 million last quarter. Confidence that we share a reliable and observable basis for our interpretation of the situation.

Dr. Flores and his colleagues developed a framework for analyzing an enterprise as a network of commitments. A basic molecule is what they called the "conversation for action", also referred to as the "Basic Action Workflow" for the purpose of process and systems design.

Each individual workflow is a structure of commitments that constitutes a transaction between two people -- a customer and a performer -- to accomplish something of concern . The structure of commitments of any process within a company can be observed and designed as a collection of interconnected workflows. Flores and his colleagues called these structures commitment processes to distinguish them from more traditional interpretations of business processes as flows of information, materials and tasks. A commitment process is a network of individual workflows configured to fulfill one of the recurrent commitments or objectives of an enterprise, such as developing and marketing new offers, delivering offers to customers, or conducting other general operations of the business. Business Design Associates, the management consulting company Dr. Flores founded in 1989, worked with a number of companies to create a culture of commitment in client organizations, resulting in more revenue, less waste, and more meaningful workplaces for employees. BDA’s clients included top executives, and their staff, throughout Europe and the Americas, including companies in New York, Boston, Cananda, Mexico, Chile, Italy, Sweden, France and Switzerland. See more: Wall Street Journal, Wired, CQM Journal, PatrimonioHoy

Pluralistic Networks

Today, with the growth of the internet and virtual reality environments, Dr. Flores and his colleagues at Pluralistic Networks are developing powerful virtual reality learning laboratories that allow their customers to achieve the kinds of results that, until recently, could only be achieved as part of costly and time consuming engagements. By harnessing the communication power of the world wide web, the immersive experience of multi-player online games, our proven theoretical framework, and our team’s experience working with thousands of individuals from some of the wolds’ largest organizations, Pluralistic Networks is poised to offer the accelerated learning of critical communications skills to a global audience, at a fraction of the cost and time commitment of a major consulting engagement.

Design and development Tinca