Who Did You Forget in Collaboration? Employees

Thank you Aaron Aders and Inc. including me in this article on collaboration

"..."Successful collaboration isn't just about providing the necessary tools and training for collaboration," she explains, "but also about building trust with employees." She suggests that collaboration develop in an organic way, rather than something being imposed on a team. "Watch how your people collaborate," Mills-Scofield advises. "Then translate that into a tool that will fit as naturally as possible into their day-to-day routine and behavior."



Managing the 4 Challenges of the Dispersed Workforce

Thank you Vala Afshar and Ryan Needing for including me in the Huffington Post article and the Collaboration & Mobility Assessment tool.  Companies need to get on board if they want to keep their employees on board with mobility and collaboration.  It was great to be a part of this! 

Collaboration for the Long Term

I'm re-posting from the archives because the issue of real, authentic collaboration has been coming up a few times a lot lately, especially in light of the Vulnerability & Trust Leadership Paradox radio showJohn Hagel, Saul Kaplan and Mike Waite did with me a few weeks ago.  Menasha Packaging has a legacy of integrity and authenticity - going back 164 years. These posts demonstrate their commitment to team work, collaboration and how they value their people.... read on, re-read on and listen and learn - so many gems of wisdom in here.

Sustaining Collaboration for Decades: Part I
Sustaining Collaboration for Decades: Part II 

What's Your Company's Family Tree?

Another wonderful guest post by a friend & client, Lisa Lehman at Thogus.  It's not that I'm abandoning my posts here, it's just that so many wonderful things are happening that I want to share.  Thogus's president, Matt Hlavin, is blessed with 2 brains - one in his head and the other in Lisa's.  Her initiative to create a family tree atThogus Family Tree Thogus has had an impact beyond expectation.  Read it and see if you can create your own company's family tree!  And I'm sure Lisa would be willing to give advise. 

Getting to Know your Company “family” by Lisa Lehman

Studies suggest that most of us spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our families.  Not shocking if you have a commute that requires you to leave before the kids are up or maybe you work afternoons to accommodate your spouses work schedule so that a babysitter is not required.  Whatever your situation, working 40 hours a week is more than the waking hours you spend with your own family in a weeks time.

Thogus decided to take a look at every employee and sent out a brief survey (8 questions actually) to really get to know him or her.  The questions included asking about their families (spouses, children, pets), what hobbies or interests they have outside of work, where is their ultimate vacation spot, even something as simple as their favorite food.  The most important question to me as a resource to our Employee Management team was asking our employee to provide an unknown fact about themselves that they were proud of.  Reading those, at times, took our breath away.  How about our shipping clerk who tried out for three (3) major league baseball teams when he was 17 or our in-house fabricator who worked on the International Space Station.  We learned more about our employees in eight Thogus Wear Blue Day(8) questions then we had in years.  It was simply awesome!

Once the survey was returned, the employee’s name was placed on a leaf and put on our “Thogus Family Tree”.  Once the leaves started going up, the excitement was contagious.  We would receive surveys several times a day as each employee was ready to turn in their survey, laugh at what they wrote, and proud to see their leaf on our tree.  We kept each survey in a binder for quick reference when rewarding our team or when we see an article that may be of interest to them.  It’s amazing to see the faces light up when you ask them about something they love.  It is and will remain a defining moment in our culture.  We chose to dig deep and the payoff wasEmployee's Thogus Tattoo! BIG.

Our employees were able to share the things with us that are closest and dearest to their hearts.  We have many that are proud parents and grandparents (one employee has 11 grandchildren).  One was named after a Ninja Turtle and one who spends his weekends volunteering with his dog at nursing homes.  All in all, we have a group of employees that are as unique as their fingerprints.  In an effort to bring us together, we wanted to uncover the common and uncommon traits we all have and use it to gain a stronger and more loyal bond between the employee and the company. 

We made a decision to get to know our employees so that they are treated as an individual; one who just happens to also be an employee of our company.  Now we know that when we host luncheons, we have a vegetarian or when we raffle sports tickets, we have more Pittsburgh Steelers fans than Cleveland Browns.  The idea was simple.  Who are we as individuals and how can we help foster the morale in the Patrick Gannon & Matt in Stratasys "3D" printing machineeight (8) hours we are together every day.  One thing is for sure, we have a lot more to learn about one another and that makes us more than just co-workers, we are a family.

We use the information to better understand how our employees tick – giving us a chance to compliment their individuality.  If they are inclined to art and music, we know that they may be visual learners and great listeners.  If they have jumped out of an airplane to parachute, we know they are adventurous and may be up for any challenge we give out.  We noticed that 50% of our employees had a pet so we decided that our next community outreach would benefit a local pet shelter.  The bottom line is that we want them to know that we are listening.  That we understand who they truly are and respect that they have big, beautiful lives outside of work.


From Yurt to Beer Cooler: Adventures with Duct Tape

Two weeks ago, a few of us adults got to play! We sat in on ENGN 0930 - Design Studio at Brown University, taught by Ian Gonsher and played with duct tape.  My friends, Annie Kahl and Dan Festa had sent up a flock-load of duct tape to the class to play with.  The following post is by Addie Thompson, '12.5 describing the collaborative creative process - iterations, failures and successes.  The lessons are applicable to all of us - listen & learn!

From Yurt to Beer Cooler: Adventures with Duct Tape
Addie Thompson, Brown ’12.5

It is always a bit overwhelming to be given the task of making anything you want, especially with a fully stocked workshop - complete with band saw and laser cutter - to suit your every need. This is the task we received last week in DesignStudio, a class at Brown University where we “imaginatively frame design problems and develop novel strategies for addressing those problems.” There were to be no limits to our design, creation and iteration of these products – except, of course, they had to be made out of duct tape.

Though broad in scope, this first official assignment had a built-in incentive to succeed (past simply surviving the class’s first crit); representatives from Duck Tape would actually be coming in to view our creations. It was a chance to build out ideations for an actual client, so the stakes were high and so was the energy. 

Inspired by the idea of collaboration, a group of us decided to work together to create something impressive, something that would get our client’s attention – basically, something BIG. Our group formed simply by where we were sitting around the design table and spoke to the diverse array of backgrounds in the class. In true Brown fashion, we had an astrophysicist, a philosopher, two biomedical engineers, and an international development major (me). Our initial reaction was to go large scale. How would humans interact in a space demarcated with duct tape? What would the experience of being surrounded by duct tape be like? We wanted to take duct tape where it had never been before; we were going to build a hammock, a tent…no! A yurt! A space where we as class members could hang out and get inspired; a permanent installation present in the studio long after the client was gone.

We set to work on a Sunday morning albeit somewhat groggy and anxious about other work. With so many people in the group, getting an idea across became a challenge; it was important to communicate every detail through drawing in our sketchbooks. It took us about an hour to set out a path to completion, and then it was pull, tear, pull, tear, rip, strrreeeettccch, rip. The sounds of our work echoed off the walls of the studio for hours on end as we layered, folded, bent, tugged and taped our hands raw. After about three hours, we had the “roof” of our yurt: an open frame, four-sided structure made from silver duct tape and sheets of Kentucky chrome (Google it) adhered creatively in 3D triangles and double-sided sheets. The true test was lifting it up, though. Would the structure maintain its intended pyramid-like shape? The answer, we found, was no.

Our defeated team immediately took to a new project with our Professor’s encouragement. Why not make a duct tape installation in the studio that utilizes the natural adhesive of the tape and demarcates space through open lines? Another hour of randomly connecting the ceiling and the floor with ridiculously long, patterned pieces of duct tape ensued. We even made duct tape fabric for the walls of the space, lining two-sided sheets with zebra and argyle or leopard and polka dots. Our crazy, pop-up tape castle came together in a flash of ripping, tearing and taping.

After almost 5 hours and two separate, semi-completed projects, the group left the studio tired, hungry and frustrated. Some were disappointed that we hadn’t seen our first project through to the end. Some were excited by the new idea but knew it wasn’t finished. All needed food. We decided to split for the day and reconvene the next afternoon.

What a difference a day makes! Our spirits were higher the next day even with the duct tape deadline looming closer and closer. With a few members of our original group and one new collaborator who had left another project team to join ours, a fresh assembly of people set out on yet another project that next afternoon. This time, with frustrations aired and slates clear, we could focus on an end goal much smaller in scope. We decided we were going to make every child’s (and every adult’s, let’s be honest) favorite toy: a kiddie pool. With the collection of dozens of prints at our disposal (thanks, Duck Tape!) and a clear vision laid out in our sketchbooks, we started on our third and final product for the week’s assignment. We worked diligently, stopping only at turning points in the product formation to make sure everyone was on the same page or to make ever-important executive decisions about which pattern to use where. With three principle actors driving the process, the design was still collaborative in nature and yet had more focus and intentionality.

After less than two hours of solid work, and a few non-duct tape wires here and there to help the structure of the pool, we had a finished product. Upon testing it to see if it would hold water, we were pleased to find that while it had some leaks, it held water for quite a long period of time. We had carefully taped a different pattern on each panel of the hexadecagonal shape (yeah, try that ten times fast) and the splatter-paint inner lining made it all the more inviting to kids and college students alike. It was important to us that our product reflect the values of our potential user groups: moms who wanted durable yet flexible construction and children who sought only the most colorful toys. On presentation day, to our surprise, someone offered, “It would be a perfect beer cooler for Brown’s Spring Weekend.” Brilliant.

Within the first week of this class, I had played a role in the creation of three separate, large-scale product designs for a real client using their materials. I had also learned more about my work style and the different roles I am able to play in various group settings. The ability to collaborate is not something you have or don’t have, I believe; it’s more about how flexible you can be to accommodate for various types of people in a group while still staying true to your vision and leadership styles. Functioning fluidly and nimbly, in terms of both ideas and people, was of utmost importance for this project, and will be essential throughout the duration of this class. We’ve started to develop a living, breathing design studio, where ideas change every second and individual backgrounds are as varied as the materials we use.

Welcome to the world of iterative, collaborative, user-centered design. 

ENGN 0930: Design Studio Collaborators:
Kerri Horvay '14
Alison Pruzan '15
Sophia Diaz '14
Ian Callendar '15
Samantha Bear '14

Status Quophiles and Quophobes

Ever know anyone who will explicitly say he/she doesn't think innovation is important? No! So listen carefully for the magic word - "but".   Some of you know how much I love to challenge the status quo so here's my theory: Status Quophiles see the glass as half empty and want to make sure it doesn't become totally empty.  Status Quophobes are Innovators - they see the half empty glass as half full, waiting to be filled up!  

I've been collecting some phrases I hear from Status Quophiles (SQ) and the rare responses from Innovators (I), Status Quophobes.  Do these sound familiar? If you can add any, please do so in the comments!

SQ: Could be a major breakthrough, but your predecessor tried that a while ago, and that’s why you’re here now.

I: Could be a major breakthrough, and we’ll support you in trying it.

SQ: That could work, but we risk not being able to get the coating on a reliable and consistent basis if the world blows up.

I: That would work, and we can diversify our coating suppliers to assure quality and price.

SQ: Wow, cool, but that’s going to be a problem for our customers.

I: Wow, cool, and that’s going to let us help so many more customers and markets than we can now!

SQAppreciate your enthusiasm and ideas, but once you’ve been around a bit longer and know how we do things here, you’ll understand the challenges involved.

I: Appreciate your enthusiasm and ideas, and the breath of fresh thinking and perspective is just what we need!

SQ: This makes sense in the long run, but remember, we are measured on quarterly results.

I: This makes sense in the long run, and we can show some benefits even in the short term by applying our learning early on.

SQ: Nice idea, but we have to recognize the sunk costs of our existing fixed assets.

I: Nice idea, and let’s face it, sunk costs are, well, sunk!       

SQWe should pursue this, but let’s make sure it’s 150% vetted and tested and has met all the criteria before we start the project, let alone release it, even for a beta.

I: We should pursue this, and figure out how to prototype and test as we go along to make sure we get it right.

SQ: Interesting, but things are going so well, we’re profitable and growing so we must be on the right track.

I: Interesting, and that will let us start adapting to our customers changing needs while we have the resources and loyalty.

Here's my challenge to you to try for just a few days.  Listen for the 'but' in meetings and discussions.  Count them.  Then, listen for the 'and' and count those?  Which do you hear more? And (ha!) what can you do to change that (perhaps starting with yourself!)?  Please share what you hear, your count of but & and, and what you can do to change it!  Learning is no good if its not shared!

Sustaining Collaboration - Part II: The Journey Continues

In Part I of how Menasha Packaging started a culture of collaboration back in the early 1990’s, Jeff discussed the need forcollaboration on the plant floor and how the training and cultural process developed, including the first year of formal training.  We know continue with the 2nd year.

Jeff: The second year focused on applying basic manufacturing principles to each person’s workstation.  Workflow systems and processes were changed.  Additionally, machine-centered teams from the first year became cross-functional, focused at a higher level.  The teams initiated this themselves, without being asked to do so.  Each team had to provide quarterly reports to the Steering Committee on their progress.

The Steering Committee members rotated annually, with the exception of the GM and Union President.  People actually started asking to be on the committee, some because of a passion for collaboration and some to derail the process.  Both types were included and after a while, the naysayers saw the benefits of the approach and helped bring other naysayers along! In fact, one person who refused to participate in the first year was eagerly involved by the 3rd year, even engaging those who were still skeptical and challenging to become part of the process.

DMS: Was there a significant aspect of this process that had the biggest impact?

Jeff: I can’t stress how important creating personal relationships were to changing the culture. When a project was completed, the Steering Committee took the team out to dinner.  After each training session, everyone went out to celebrate, eat and socialize.  Getting to know each other as individuals instead of “management” or “labor” increased trust, which increased collaboration.  In fact, for the first time, management was invited to personal employee celebrations, like birthday parties!  What surprised employees the most was that management actually showed up, that management cared enough about them to come to their party.  This made a huge positive difference. 

DMS: So, it’s 15-20 years later, how has the culture evolved since then? For instance, it seems that using HR in a unique way, as Jerry and you did, is still part of the culture.

Jeff: Today, team involvement and collaboration are simply the way things are done.  It is less formal than in the 1990’s because it has become integral to the culture.  Lean teams are everywhere.  Lean has even played a significant part in creating our innovation mindset.  Collaboration had become the norm; it was no longer unique, which is what we hoped would happen.  Today’s culture is terrific, everyone is on the same page and the union-management relationship is very strong.

DMS: So, as you look back, why did you do it this way?

Jeff:  Well, when Jerry had asked me to help, we knew teamwork was a core value for MPC.  It was obvious to us that collaboration was the best way to work – for culture and performance.  At the core, both management and the union leadership had the same value system.  We knew what we wanted life to be like at the plant, to empower employees, to let their voices be heard.  So, we created a path to get there.  We also knew that patience was going to be a critical virtue.  The employees would think this was a fad.  We had to prove this was real, it was for the long-term and we weren’t trying to break the unions.  Jerry and the union president’s commitment were paramount.  And, as I said before, developing personal relationships was vital.  The dinners, celebrations, recognitions, parties, even just hanging out together proved our credibility and authenticity.  It took time, but it changed, and we’ve been able to sustain it.

Sustaining Collaboration for Decades

Menasha Packaging Corp. (MPC) transformed its culture from a staid, old-line traditional industrial one into a 21st Century innovation and collaboration one.  To some this may seem a dramatic change, but if you know anything about MPC, it all stems from its core values, sustained over 163 years and 7 generations.

I recently chatted with Jeff Krepline, Executive Director of Retail Integration Institute and National Sales at MPC.  Jeff shared a fascinating story of how, starting in 1993, MPC had recognized and embraced collaboration as significant to success.  While this may be an ‘old’ story (it’s almost 20 years old), it demonstrates the importance of sticking to your values and mission, through thick and thin.  The continuity and stability of MPC’s core values is a bulwark against market, industry and global cycles.

DMS: Jeff, why did the Neenah, WI complex’s management to ask you in to help?

Jeff:  The culture was good, but there was an ‘us v them’ tone in the complex, a union versus management mentality; nothing that would warrant a strike, but still not very collaborative.  The lack of collaboration meant less teamwork that stifled growth.  Neenah had just had some arbitration cases that caused division even within the union.   Neenah’s General Manager (GM), Jerry Hessel, knew that team-based manufacturing improved performance, so he felt he had to do something.  Jerry asked to help him.  I had recentlygraduated from college was new to MPC in corporate HR.   I proposed a 3-year training plan to improve the culture, starting with the basics: getting people on the floor to share ideas with people in the office.

We created a steering committee that made all the decisions on training for this initiative. The steering committee consisted of the GM and 2 floor management leaders (e.g., area manager, shift leader) and the union president along with 1 union officers and someone from the floor.  At the time, this was a very new concept.  The team met monthly and always went through the actual training that employees would go through.  Union leadership couldn’t say they didn’t know what was going on.  Despite the fact that management had training requirements in the union contract, one of the first employee groups refused to participate claiming the training wasn’t in the union handbook and the time of day for training conflicted with handbook rules.  To say the first year was a struggle and tense with the rank and file is an understatement.  Many employees hadn’t been in a classroom since high school and needed basic training in Business 101.

DMS: How did you structure the training, because this a rather radical approach?

Jeff:  I leveraged the concept of continuous improvement to structure training around specific work centers or machines instead of traditional cross-functional teams.  This made the training more natural, more like the actual work.  The teams were asked to reflect on the basics of how they worked and functioned, as well as on the direction of the company and the desired future they wanted to see.  Training was based on providing tools for ‘work’, like Lean (e.g., 5 Why’s). The teams reported to Union and Management leadership on what they felt and thought about their project, what they learned, the current state, the future desired state and finished by asking for approval to actually do the project.  We wanted the employees to have a safe environment to have their voices heard.

DMS: How did the 3-year plan evolve?

Jeff: The first year we focused on ‘low-hanging fruit’ – basic projects like tool cabinet organization, tool cleaning etc.  This empowered teams to improve their day-to-day life at work. We wanted to link business performance to the job on the floor.  We started with a very nice “Business Connection Dinner” between management and union leadership with their spouses early in the year.  Management reviewed the past year, discussed the upcoming year and personally thanked the spouses and significant others for the over-time their partners had given to the company and the difference it had made.   This helped them make the connection between business performance to the job on the floor to the sacrifices at home.  Employees and their spouses could ask questions about concerns and company direction.  To stress how much we cared about all employees, the invitations to dinner were addressed to them and their spouses and mailed to their homes. At dinner, recognition was given to top teams and Steering Committee members coming on/going off.  We also gave out prizes for various achievements.

To Be Continued...Part II:  Continuing the Journey 1994 - Today

Power in Innovation Networks

A few weeks ago, I was driving by an abandoned Ford plant in Lorain, OH.   The plant, a key regional employer closed in 2005.  What

struck me were the parking lots.  Some of them were fields!  You couldn’t even see any concrete.  Others were still in the process of re-fielding.  In 6 years, the force of nature was powerful enough to break through concrete and asphalt, not just in cracks made from wear and tear but also in solid concrete.  Do you know how much power and strength that takes?  So I thought I’d find out. Two of my ‘learnings’ really hit me:

  1. The Network: since plants need light and water (remember osmosis and photosynthesis?), all it takes is 1 plant sprouting up between a crack to ‘distribute’ the energy and nutrients of light and water throughout its underground root system causing others to grow and push through.
  2. The Chemistry: the cellulose, starch and lignin in the plant cells creates electrical charges when wet – like water (2H are +, 1O is -).  The water permeates these natural polymers creating a chemical bond (hydrogen bonding) that makes the cell contents and wall swell exponentially, which creates tremendous pressure - pressure strong enough to break through concrete and asphalt.

The Network.  Nature has an incredible under-on-over-ground network that I believe is indestructible – not that we can’t damage it a lot.  Man has a lot of hubris to think we are powerful enough to fully destroy what existed long before us.  We have a lot to learn from nature’s powerful networks. Networks increase strength, resilience, diversity, and adaptation, which facilitate growth and innovation.  We can use networks to create these same traits in society, in communities and even our companies: to solve wicked problems facing our world; to tell, share and create stories that transform; even to just have fun. We need to get over our hubris of our individual power and knowledge, just like our hubris with the planet, and realize its “The Network, Stupid”.   We – as companies, organizations, people - need to stop fearing the network (e.g., twitter, Facebook, etc.) and embracing it – it is a key to survival.

The Chemistry. Have you ever met someone and you just clicked? The same strength of physical chemical bonds between atoms happens between people.  These can’t be commanded or coerced, they happen (or don’t) naturally.  It’s the power of these bonds between people that create, sustain and grow networks.  That’s why networks, which are collaborative are great at innovation – whether in sustainability or other areas.  When atoms collide, they create energy and new structures.  When people collide, they create energy and new ideas, solutions.

So, look at the parking lot again.  What can you learn from the power of nature, from its underlying extending network and adaptive evolving chemistry?  How can this apply to your company, project, initiatives and people? You don’t have to start at some grand scale.  All it takes is one small stalk sticking up through a crack in the seemingly impermeable concrete (your culture?) to spread.

175 Years of Innovation Lessons

Suffice it to say I was honored my friend Chris Thoen would agree to talk about P&G’s Open Innovation history at the 3rd Open Innovation (OI) Summit at BW’s Center for Innovation & GrowthPractical Challenges of Global Open Innovation.  Chris has been interviewed, quoted, written about extensively as a leader in OI, and for good reason.

He opened with P&G’s 175yr old history OI.  Two brother-in-laws, William Procter (candle maker) and James Gamble (soap maker), using the same raw material, fats, were encouraged by their father-in-law to collaborate to get better ‘fat’ pricing! This was the start of P&G in 1837.  They grew the company with their own innovations and through (un-named at the time) open innovation with other technology makers and companies.  These partnerships were the foundation of P&G’s growth into 300 brands in over 180 countries, 24 billion dollar brands and most importantly, one of the most trusted names in the world.

About 10 years ago, CEO A. G. Lafley transformed P&G’s open innovation heritage into a key cultural component of the company –Connect+Develop (C+D).   This wasn’t just a way to come up with new products, but a fundamentally new way to do business.  Lafley challenged P&G to source at least 50% of their innovation from outside its hallowed R&D halls.

Chris clearly described OI as an ongoing journey requiring recognition and investment in top talent and external synergies.  When done well, OI is all about value creation for both partners, with both sets of interests in mind.  It’s about sharing your expertise and strategic needs of your brands, businesses, even corporately.  To do this, P&G has developed and put 70+ C+D leaders around the globe with 11 regional hubs (e.g., NA, LA, Europe, Israel, China, India, Japan), 100s of networks and academic partnerships.

Several products you may know are a result of OI: Swiffer, Tide, Mr. Clean eraser (1 of my faves).   Clorox’s Glad ForceFlexproduct is based on a P&G licensed technology.  Sometimes, you can even collaborate with your competitors! P&G’s technology and IP have created $3B in sales for their OI partners.

So what has P&G learned on this 10+ year journey?

  1. Drive from the Top:  Without Lafley’s challenge, commitment and leadership as CEO, it couldn’t have taken hold corporate-wide.
  2. Build an OI culture: You have to support and learn from failure, communicate openly (and often) to build trust, help your people understand the innovation process and consistently reward partnerships and results, not just patents.
  3. Focus the Hunt: Keep your eyes on the strategy at all times!  It’s what guides you; build internal relationships by sharing needs and goals; manage leadership’s expectations for reality, not for fantasy; create and communicate clear innovation selection and filtering criteria.
  4. Be Where the Action Is: get out of Cincinnati (or wherever)! You need to be where the innovation is happening and the markets exist – like developing markets, areas of VC activity, Social Media, SMEs, Academia/Universities and places with diverse expertise, cultures, ideas.
  5. Build Efficient and Effective Knowledge Management Systems: Track connections among your own people, capturing their knowledge and experience partnership nuances, deals so they are not repeated, saving time and money.  Include your partners, networks, and competitors while protecting your IP and create a way to visualize and analyze these intertwined relationships.
  6. Obey the Law of the Land: Take what you need, only what you need, and leave the rest.  Share what you’re not using because it may find a great application in another home
  7. Staff for Success: Hire and train a unique blend of Hunter-Gatherer.  This is not a typical person, but you may already have them – people who have expertise in a technology with business acumen with the ability to develop relationships, influence people, inside and outside your company.  Deliberately hire for this.  And, keep investing in R&D – doing OI doesn’t mean closing down your own R&D.
  8. Be the Partner You’re Looking For: The Golden Rule!  Celebrate your partners, look beyond the first deal with them, facilitate more connections for you and them, keep that Win:Win mindset front and center and be transparent because a second (third, fourth…) deal with the same partner takes about half the time while creating twice the value.  Remember, strong partners make you stronger as well.

Bottom line? P&G has created more value together with their OI partners than they ever could have alone.  It is a real ecosystem that creates value on a global scale to accomplish P&G’s mission: “…improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come.”

Ok, so maybe you’re not P&G, but you can still start the journey.   What do you need? What do you have to offer? Who could you partner with? Just start small, doesn’t have to be huge, just a step.  Give it a try.

Innovation Relies on Hope

Friday, April 15th, was an amazing day for Cleveland, Ohio: the 2nd annual TEDxCLE.  Let’s put this in perspective. The theme was “Guardians of the Evolution: We are the guardians of Cleveland’s future; We are responsible for its evolution; Success is only possible through collaboration.”

The logo was based on the Hope Memorial Bridge’s “Guardians of Traffic” powerful historic sculptures. The metaphor of the Hope Bridge AND Guardians is real and happening now. Let me recap some of my favorites because they highlight the necessity of Hope for Innovation for any community and organization.

The theme was set with Ari Maron, driver of East 4th Street project, on the wonderful future for urban Cleveland. He is one of those that has great dreams and visions for Cleveland AND actually does something about them.

His challenge? The people in the community make a world-class city happen; put your ego aside and go for it. Since Ari has done what he advices, his words are powerfully real and hopeful.

One of my favorite talks was by Matt Hlavin of Thogus, ‘not your father’s injection molding company’, on the New Industrial Revolution.  He’s changed the rules of the game…they are an engineering company that also manufactures, and with some cool (very) rapid prototyping equipment for polymers and metal. As Matt said, “It’s no longer about mass production, it’s about mass customization.”

He wants the next generation to think manufacturing is cool, so he invests in coops and interns, providing housing (all they need is gas and food money). Taking care of his people--giving them the tools, training, and support to succeed--is critical.

One of the many benefits includes innovative health and wellness programs for employees and their families. For Matt, success is the day one of his employees tells him they’re leaving to start a company because of what they learned at Thogus. This ‘little manufacturing’ company in Avon Lake, OH, is so leading edge that internationally renown author Steve Denning cited Thogus in his recent book, Radical Management as leading the way in innovating management.

Next was a series of national to local talks on building community through historic preservation. The panelists (Hannah Belsito,Rhonda SincavageJeff Siegler, and Thomas Starinsky) talked about the connectedness that history provides to community. A Knight Foundation study, The Soul of the Community, stated that aesthetics, openness, social offerings play a greater role in selection of community than just safety.

Historic preservation is an economic driver – it brings in people, art, nature, culture and business. It manifests itself emotionally – in the intangible, which is not easily measured. This is a great example of the difference between 20th century outputs and 21stcentury outcomes. While new businesses are a very important output, the outcome is a thriving community – a virtuous cycle of passionate people that collaborate to make a stronger community.

The Cleveland Art Museum’s new director, Dr. David Franklin, gave a magnificent talk about why museums still matter (not that he had to convince many of us in the audience). He started with a photo of a 5,000 year old sculpture, The Star Gazer, and then brought out this little 5” tall figure – right in his hand. Next, he brought out a 6,000 year old statue of a little woman.  11,000 years of history on stage.

Museums matter because they engage, they tell stories of the past, present and future. Museums provide a ‘place’ for people to engage with art, art with art, to reflect and ponder and see true authenticity – in real life, not virtually. Think about it – in a museum, it’s so easy to strike up a conversation with a total stranger about a piece of art.

Museums inherently connect us – to each other, to the past, present and future and create a sense of joy and wonder. David concluded his talk with, “We’ll be waiting for you; we’re in Cleveland, and we’re free.” And oh, by the way, in 2015, the museum will display ALL of Monet’s Water Lilies – all in one place – talk about utopia!

There were many other great talks, as you can see (and soon watch) on the TEDxCLE site. I don’t know if my friends, Hallie Bramand Eric Kogelschatz, realized the amazing connection between the Guardian statues as a metaphor for re-innovating Cleveland and the Hope in the Hope Memorial Bridge (even though it’s named after Bob Hope).

If it was deliberate or serendipitous, it doesn’t matter – it is the perfect metaphor for Cleveland…and for your city, your business, and your community. Hope looks to the future, rooted in facts, not fantasy, based on experience, learning and application.

So please take a few minutes to share your hopes are for your business, organization, community in the comments below. Think about the talents and treasures around you - I'd bet your hope is based on some real evidence...go for it. The more we share, the more Hope, the more we can make a difference and impact!