Moving from Passive to Active

Luminaria Gone WrongAs a part of preparing to train and orient some new folks joining us at Summersault in the coming weeks, I've thought a lot about the different phases of engagement that I expect staff members to experience as a part of their integration into the life of the company.  The path looks something like this:

  • Understand: learn about what we do and why we do it
  • Observe: encounter what we do and how we do it in a hands on way
  • Contribute: join in to what we do and become a part of the process
  • Facilitate/Lead: take ownership of what we do and help make it happen well
  • Change/Improve: challenge the way we do things and try to make them better, or look for entirely new things to do

(It isn't always a linear progression; challenging and improving something often leads to resetting our engagement with it, returning to stages of trying to understand and observe.)

Another way to look at this journey is as one from being a passive participant to an active participant in the life of the company.  Businesses and organizations thrive when the people feel they are empowered, active agents of success.  Businesses and organizations stagnate or fail when the people are just passively waiting for things to happen, or don't know how to contribute.

I realized that movement from passive to active is not just something we do as a part of learning a new job.

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Hero Worship

RepresentSometimes, it's important to question the unquestionable.  One area where I see that our culture has the most difficult time doing this is in talking about the funding of our military defense and public safety services.  At a national/international level, it's the U.S. Military and private security contractors.  At the state, county and city level, it's police officers along with firefighters and EMTs.

Lawmakers and executive branch leaders across the political spectrum are acutely aware that they'll never be criticized for "supporting the troops" that serve in these operations.  In his recent speech updating the world on the status of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he also acknowledged the tenuous state of the economy, President Obama said that, "as long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and we will do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us."  The finest in the world.  Whatever it takes.  These phrases mean something coming from the President of the United States.

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Progress in overcoming a fear of change

San Cristobal sea lionThank you, Larry Parker.

In an article in today's Palladium-Item about changes to Richmond's zoning code that were passed last night, City Councilman Parker is said to have stated that, "he didn't think the council should support something that might put someone out of business."

Parker's words are a manifestation of some of the more regressive and misdirected thinking that too often dominates in Richmond and Wayne County's governmental leadership, but that is rarely verbalized so succinctly.  The statement was a reference to claims by Porter Advertising and their supplier, Productivity Fabricators, that the new sign ordinances included in the zoning code (which place some restrictions on billboard advertising) would put those companies out of business.

Why is this regressive and misdirected, and why is it good that the zoning changes were approved anyway?

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Local opportunities to benefit from technology alternatives

Lest we not forget the times when using expensive proprietary hardware and software without exploring more open alternatives comes back around to bite us in the rear, I thought I'd highlight two issues currently being mentioned in the local press.

1) The Pal-Item reports on a meeting happening today about technology in schools:

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Too many community builders in one town?

GazeboOne of the recurring themes in my writing in speaking about how to make our communities more self-reliant is that we can't necessarily depend on entities and organizations that aren't locally rooted to address the issues that are of local concern. The natural corollary to this is that, in addition to individual citizens taking action, we should be able to look to locally rooted organizations to be moving the community forward, helping us make it the place we want it to be.

But one only has to look at the long list of community building organizations and entities in Richmond - and the overlap, duplication, and even competition that some of them represent for each other - to wonder if maybe this isn't an area where we're actually holding ourselves back instead of moving ourselves forward.

Consider, in no particular order: Continue reading Too many community builders in one town?

Our Empire Story

One of the books I've been working my way through recently is David C. Korten's The Great Turning, which I bought after seeing him speak at a conference last year. In a recent article in Yes! Magazine that distills the essence of the book nicely, Korten suggests that one of the barriers to achieving the world we want to live in is that this story about who we are loops endlessly in our heads:

It is our human nature to be competitive, individualistic, and materialistic. Our well-being depends on strong leaders with the will to use police and military powers to protect us from one another, and on the competitive forces of a free, unregulated market to channel our individual greed to constructive ends. The competition for survival and dominance—violent and destructive as it may be—is the driving force of evolution. It has been the key to human success since the beginning of time, assures that the most worthy rise to leadership, and ultimately works to the benefit of everyone.

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False choices in selecting the American President

This is my inventory of the false or misleading choices presented to us in the mainstream narrative of how we select the President of the United States. They're presented by our culture, our media, our parents, our friends. They're presented as "the way things have always been" and "get on board with this or you'll be left behind" and "don't be an idealistic fool by believing anything else" They're presented with confidence and vigor, and they're spread far and wide: Continue reading False choices in selecting the American President