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Read Part One here and Part Two here and Part Three here

People are the drivers of success in an organization. Systems, policies, processes, and so forth are all created by people with an eye on helping people create and sustain a healthy, viable organization. As well, it is people who purchase products or services, who donate to charities, who volunteer, and so forth. Everything in a business or a non profit organization comes down to people. This is no less true when it comes to innovation.

An innovative environment is one that promotes engagement and proximity. It is appropriately inclusive. While our work structures are changing, allowing for more remote workers, more outsourcing, and increased automation, we need to be careful to maintain balance.

Our employees need to be together. They need to be in contact with one another. Face to face, not just through emails, telephone calls, and other electronic media. This is what the fourth principles is about: “Co-locating drives effective exchange.”

“Co-location refers to physical proximity between people. It is a key for building the trust that is essential to the innovation process. It also increases the possibility for greater exchange of information, cross-fertilization of ideas, stimulation of creative thinking in one another and critique of ideas during their formative stage.”

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Read Part One here and Part Two here.

Passion. And pain.

This is the third principle mentioned in the The Practice of Leadership blog. In fact the blog puts it like this: “Passion is the fuel, and pain is the hidden ingredient.”

This means that individual talent and organization systems are not enough. Organization passion for innovation is “what transforms other resources into profits, but it never shows up on the balance sheet.” In the context of non-profits, innovating to make a profit may not be the calling, but clearly innovating to better manage costs, develop innovative programs, and deepen stakeholder relationships are among the things that concern us, when thinking of innovation.

I don’t think we require statistical proof to understand that passion drives and feeds success. If the workforce is not mission directed and unable to embrace vision, values, and systems with passion, fewer ideas will bubble and fewer opportunities emerge.

The blog writer does remind us that often “when pursuing a passion or following a dream, pain is part of the process. Innovation leaders need to take the pain with the passion and learn to manage both effectively.” The pain of passion, however, is quite preferable, I think, than the pain of complacency or the pain of an uninspired workforce.

Stay tuned for Part Four

Warn/Acorn Report on Foreclosures in Pinellas County indicates clearly the challenges families are facing during this economic downturn. You can download the full report (PDF) HERE

THE EXTENT OF THE CRISIS
This report examines a snapshot of the foreclosure crisis in Pinellas County through an analysis of homes undergoing foreclosure proceedings during January, February, and March of 2008. Records of foreclosure proceedings in Pinellas County Circuit Court are available to the public on the County’s official website. A review of these records shows that 3,005 residential foreclosure proceedings were in progress during the first three months of 2008. While foreclosure on any home is a threat to property owners and communities, we wanted to focus on borrowers in the most dire need.

Therefore, we eliminated from our list property owners who owned more than one property in the county, or whose address of record is outside of the county, and ended up with a list of 1,001 foreclosure proceedings—all of which likely involve homeowners in danger of being evicted from their only home and residence (i.e., likely involving “homesteaded” properties). This is the data set presented in this report.

Almost half of these 1,001 foreclosures were occurring in St. Petersburg, but the remainder were spread throughout practically every community in the County—from Tierra Verde to Tarpon Springs. In fact, there was no spot in Pinellas County more than 2 miles from a homeowner facing foreclosure proceedings in early 2008. Furthermore, the crisis is affecting homeowners across the economic spectrum, with homes in foreclosure having market values ranging from under $50,000 to over $1 million. (Almost 10% of the homes on the list are worth more than $300,000.)

THE EFFECTS OF THE CRISIS
While the effects of the foreclosure crisis are harder to quantify than its extent, numerous social and economic ills can be linked to foreclosure. Those evicted from their homes are clearly the most affected—for them, foreclosure may mean a substantially lowered sta dard of living or even homelessness. Their former neighbors and communities,however, also feel the impact.

Between 2005 and 2007, the homeowner vacancy rate in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area rose from 1.8% to 5.1%, giving it in 2007 the second-highest vacancy rate among large metropolitan areas nationwide. High rates of foreclosure and resultant vacancy have been linked to higher crime rates and lower property values. Lower property values, in turn, often result in cuts to much-needed social services, from schools to law enforcement.

The Center for Responsible Lending predicts that Pinellas County properties will lose over $700 million in value as a result of foreclosures related to subprime mortgages issued in 2005-2006 alone. That equates to a loss of over $14 million in property tax revenues.

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If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance, dial 2-1-1. You can also visit the Emergency Assistance Page at My Family’s Future. There may other helpful resources for you and those you care about on that site as well.

Read Part One 

The second principle of innovation is that it needs a system. Not just any system. In fact, often the conventional systems that an organization creates and sustains contraindicates innovation. For example, formal and rigid systems designed by management and handed down to workers may very well have their rationale, but often the exclusion of collaborative development of systems limits, if not kills, innovation.

Innovation often resides in informal systems or channels. These “informal channels are untidy and inefficient, yet innovation is always associated with them.”

If there is only one way for an idea to be heard in an organization, typically through some sort of heirarchial channel, the person with all the power becomes a gatekeeper or a bottleneck that chokes creative expression. As well, it is unrealistic and too much to ask that one person, or even a few, have the knowledge, insight, and moxie on their own to adequately judge all innovative ideas that may come their way.

It is a fine line for leadership to walk. Clearly there are decisions to make and they can’t all be made by everyone. But while decisions about an organization’s future necessarily rest with leadership, the processes behind decisions are what feed the organization with options, opportunities, and new and different ways of engaging customers or stakeholders.

While innovation does require systems to thrive, those systems require a culture that fuels inquiry, dialog, free thinking, and ego management. If the culture and climate are right, then the third principle becomes possible and understandable. More on that next time.

 

I have been thinking about innovation. It’s a word we all use and while we intuit its meaning, it is also a word that can have an elusive definition. Check a dictionary (I used dictionary.com) and the definition is not crystal clear, at least to me: “something new or different introduced.” 

When most of us think of innovation or of being innovative, we attach value to the words. We naturally think innovations should be good things, not just anything “new.” We believe innovation should improve quality or speed things up or save money, make life easier, and other stuff like that.

Some writers talk about the process of innovation and in that type of discussion, give shape to what the term means. So, not really a definition, but rather a roadmap toward innovative solutions and, I believe, the development of an organizational culture that will result in new ideas and adjustments to our businesses that add value.

The Practice of Leadership  blog reports on five principles of innovation as developed by the Center for Creative Leadership. Here is an overview of what the blog tells us.

Innovation begins with people. Without the minds, creativity, and problem solving skills of people – typically people working together – innovation will not take place. The first principle the writers mention is that Innovation begins when people convert problems to ideas. This involves people making inquiries, analyzing things, paying attention to obstacles as well as aspirations. “The process of innovation is indebted to the trouble that comes about when we are surrounded by that which is not solved, not smooth and not simple.” As well, innovation requires a culture and climate “that encourages inquiry and welcomes problems.”

This means that staff must feel free to pose the difficult question, offer points of view that might be seen as unconventional or, at times, out in left field. People must feel free and safe to risk going against the grain. An organization that is suspicious of differences or that automatically chooses tradition over challenging the norm will be hard pressed to instill an innovative spirit among its people.

This is not to say that tradition and convention are not to be valued. In every organization there are habits and patterns, systems and processes, and protocols and techniques that should be understood before one is quick to change them. Valuing how we do things, however, does not make how we do things sacrosanct.

If an organization’s leadership is not able to move with eyes open and accept change as not only what happens to us, but more so what we must engage in to be continually successful and valued, the organization will, at best, just plod along.

Think for a moment about the Swiss who for so many years were the kingpins of watch making. Swiss watches were synonymous with quality. There was prestige associated with owning such a time piece. The Swiss were also known for being innovative, but they became complacent and unable to break out of their paradigm of what a watch was.

Did you know that the Swiss invented the digital watch? They even showcased their invention at a convention, but they were so sure their idea was not marketable, they did not bother to patent it. It was the Japanese who saw the innovation, recognized the marketability of this fresh, exciting idea of what a watch was.

The result was that in a very short time, digital time pieces took over the market place, with the Japanese crowned as the new kingpin. The Swiss were reduced to being a minor player for many years. Their own innovation lost to their inability to recognize how their bright minds could revolutionize watches.

This suggests that innovation is only truly innovation when it moves beyond an idea to something that exists and is used. In other words, innovative minds will generate ideas, often out of the box ideas, but not all ideas will come to fruition, not all ideas will become innovations. It also suggests that the innovative process somehow must result in a paradigm shift. For the Swiss, they were so locked in to what a watch is, they could not see what a watch could be.

Stay tuned for Part Two which will cover the second principle of innovation which is: “Innovation needs a system.”

Leave it to Oprah to join the ranks of reality TV with the “Big Give.” Contestants “compete” with allotted charitable funds to see who can make the biggest difference in the lives of other people.

Subscribe to this blog And American Idol, already a consistent reality TV ratings phenomenon, has begun its second “Idol Gives Back” program. The live show highlights the philanthropic efforts of its judges, participants and A-list super-stars to raise money and awareness for children and families living in extreme poverty in the U.S. and abroad.

 Oprah consistently gives away millions around the globe to feed, care for and educate children, families and others in need. But could her venture into reality entertainment inspire others to think of others? At the program’s debut in March, more than 15 million inquisitive viewers peered into the world of philanthropy in action. Despite mixed reviews and skepticism about individuals selected to give away and receive Oprah’s money, this much is true: the participants and the home audience are thinking about helping others.

 Last year’s “Idol Gives Back” raised more than $70 million from viewer pledges. And this year will no doubt reach or exceed that remarkable figure. As evidence, producers for the program had a new problem. So many famous people wanted to participate in the live show that they had to book an additional venue to accommodate all the performances. The Idol Gives Back Foundation continues to accept donations for the near future.

 Has American society turned the corner of “I want” to “I want to give”? Will witnessing “do good” acts inspire the average television viewer?

 It doesn’t take a reality TV program for many to give. Thousands of people, right here in Tampa Bay are inspired every day through their own generosity and kindness to give their time, talent and treasure to others. One doesn’t need a fistful of cash to help someone else. The warm feeling that kindness brings is sufficient for most.

 What inspires you to give? How do you enjoy helping others?

 Let us go beyond prime-time philanthropy and Live United towards a better community. Give, advocate or volunteer today.

 

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