Welcome to WhiteSPÅCE

whiteSPÅCE is about creating organizations that are...flexible, designed centric, system oriented, and future thinking.

Here we explore structures, behaviors, and interconnectivity of the organization.

whiteSPÅCE is about developing new ways to connect and create the future.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

So little money, so much potential

If new businesses are not disciplined by a certain scarcity of capital, both the entrepreneur and investors should be very much on the alert,' says Professor Møen.

Norwegian researchers show a relationship between entrepreneurial success and scarcity of resources. A lack of resources puts one in a position to have to focus resources strategically while having plenty could put one at risk to well...risk more with very little accountability.

This bodes well with earlier conversations I had this week about what makes for entrepreneurial success both inside (intrapreneurial) and outside of organizational structures. Beyond the "can-do" attitude is a need to have what I call a mindset of potentiality within limits, meaning one can see the creative, the new, and the needed despite the limits before them and they can allocate resources in the best way to make the ultimate goal happen.

We live in a time where ideas are flourishing and the infrastructure is being built to help advance those ideas. We've had Start-up Weekends, 5x5 Night, Momentum, innovation challenges galore and now the exciting start-up seeding collective Start Garden, all designed to fuel the entrepreneurial idea.

Despite all of these wonderful opportunities, I think the testament of  entrepreneurial success in West Michigan's ultimately won't be the resources these things bought to entrepreneurs it will be the resourcefulness of the entrepreneurs themselves.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Well, well, well...someone finally said it.

Instead Of Whining About The Skills Gap, Use Training To Close It - http://pulse.me/s/3fvaz

Saturday, September 17, 2011

So you want to innovate? - A perspective on the need for creativity and innovation within nonprofits

There is an increasing focus on creativity and innovation in both the business and nonprofit sector. Both sectors realize that neither can continue to think in the same ways they have been thinking and that there is a need to approach the work to be done with fresh eyes and open minds. This is easier said then done because there is a struggle within organizations to the harness creativity and innovation. This can especially be the case for nonprofits where there is limited resources and time to ferret out the latent treasures that lie within the enterprise.

Despite this, nonprofits cannot rest on the lack of resources as a reason for not forging ahead to innovate. One way nonprofits can move ahead of the curve and build capacity is to focus on what I call the "new-new" and "unusual suspects" that may pose opportunity or challenges to the work they do.

Futurist, Alvin Toffler quoted Herbert Gerjouy as saying, “Tomorrow's illiterate will not be the man who can't read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn." What both Toffler and Gerjouy were trying to emphasize was the need to learn, unlearn, and relearn as future skills to understanding the world around us. I believe this ability is not just to be applied at an individual level but must be applied at an organizational level as well. The ability to see how the organization functions as a system, captures learning, creates models of understanding and applies this knowledge to the core of its work will be important for adapting to change.

Technological, social, political, environmental, cultural, and economic changes in our society will have an impact on the way nonprofits will operate. The “new-new” are the things that can erupt from these societal changes and recent innovations. The key will be for nonprofits to harness the influencers and adjacent possibilities these changes will bring by looking at the connections that seem unrelated and that have an impact on the organization. Organizations must be able to go beyond traditional strategic planning to applying methods that use foresight, divergent and design thinking strategies and methodologies in order to see the “new-new” and harness the power of new ways of thinking, connecting, and doing. Meaning, nonprofits will have to build within the organization structural “tools” that focus on the work of foresight and creative thinking to occur in real time to be innovative at a quicker pace. Nonprofits will have to set the pace rather than walk to a given beat. They will have to move from being at the mercy of funders and the tail-end of technologies to creating new ways to fund and new technologies to use. It means stepping into the realm of competitiveness both known and unknown.

Examples of where nonprofit innovation has gone can be seen in mobile Farmer’s Markets, eco-travel tours that allow travelers to do good while vacationing, funding models like Kiva.org or Kickstart.org or kickstarter.com or blended models such as Panera Cares (see: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7188729n) and netimpact.org.

So where does one start? How can nonprofits begin harnessing innovation? By looking at the “unusual suspects” meaning the people and situations that reside within the “white space” of the organization. The white space carries the underlying organizational dynamics, hidden influencers, assumptions, and latent abilities that add value and potentiality if given attention. As an example, a nonprofit leader shared with me the frustration of not knowing how to “manage” their younger and newer staff members, this manager shared, “They have great ideas, but they aren’t practical for the day-to-day challenges we face.” So, they did nothing. The ideas fell upon deaf ears. This told me that there was a great likelihood that ideas or potential for innovation had been lost and that instead of harnessing the potentiality of these white space ideas they were instead, caste aside along with the individual. We must remember that creative ideas are often out of the mainstream and at first glance they come across as impractical because they are foreign to the organizational system. So if our first reaction is to bristle at a suggestion, it just might be worth taking a closer look at it.

Nonprofit leaders need to seize the opportunity to develop the potential of both seasoned and new professionals. Often times new and young professionals are faced with the struggle of developing an identity in environments that cling to traditional organizational structures and norms of being. This creates a tension between the “old school” and “new school” that results in both the nonprofit and the new professional losing the opportunity of providing higher order benefits to those served. This tension stifles the collective growth of both and deprives direct recipients of service, creative solutions, and innovations that could be targeted towards the “big hairy audacious” dilemmas that require new thinking and actions.

Leaders need to make contextual and creative sense of technological, social, political, environmental, cultural, and economic changes so that innovations can take hold. Also, leaders need to foster collective work within their organizations to see not just what is around them but what is in the “white spaces” before them where adjacent possibilities lie and new beginnings are formed.

So this leaves us with a call out to leaders to be deliberate and purposeful in making space for
exploring and harnessing creativity with an eye towards challenging formerly held norms or ways of being that may hinder the organization and people from discovering the "new-new" and allowing the “unusual suspects” from participating in moving not only the organization, but whole societies forward.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wicked Problems Need Heavy Lifting...Not Shiny Ornaments

Last night, I read this op-ed entitled “Are you a socialite or a social change agent?” by Emily Stoddard Furrow, social changer and co-owner of DVQ Studio http://www.ynpngr.org/content/are-you-socialite-or-social-change-agent-0 I also read some responses to it. Some were reflective and some came across threatened or hurt by the comments made. I decided to add this to my blog. I wanted to respond and speak especially to young people in West Michigan...

As someone who has worked many years in GR with nonprofits, I have seen very interesting responses as of lately to social change in our community. There is still heavy lifting happening for very real and tough needs out here but it does seem that some that are providing the funding or who are doing some of the event planning, PR and marketing in the nonprofit world are caught up in making IT "hip and sexy" rather than making IT "stick and lasting". You see, it appears to have become a gimmick or as I hear a lot from individuals in the community, one of the only ways to keep you young people’s attention so you can stay in West Michigan. You see there are some who really think that West Michigan young folks have to have something shiny in order to be engaged in social change. So they support the shiny things hoping they’ve got you involved and you'll stay. I once thought this as well but like others want to attach you to deeper involvement, not just events. These feelings are not malicious, it's not even strategic, it just is an effort at trying to create something meaningful for you all and get you involved in the community. Let’s be honest, nonprofits have to compete with apathy, a lot of bells and whistles, people who need to be entertained in order to engage and an ADHD society.

In my humble opinion, what is missing is more opportunity for young and old a like to be funded and supported in creating social enterprise. I was hopeful a few years back that one of our major institution would finally be a conduit for social enterprise and entrepreneurship in West Michigan. I, along with others were invited in to help with giving some framework to this effort. The overwhelming response was confusion and it seemed some NP leaders felt threatened by what they saw as the new "IT". So under a weak change agent within that institution, questionable motivates, confusion and threats of power being taken away, nothing happened. Status quo and empires reigned. It should be noted, the idea was novel for West Michigan but was happening and being funded in other parts of the country and the world years prior...sort of like the “shiny things” we have been doing lately. Old news in other places.

We will waste so much talent in West Michigan if the only way to support social change is to make “IT” shinny. In fact, it's an insult to young people who are creative and deep thinkers who can offer new and innovative ways to address real and systematic problems. I know it's important to meet people where they are, but if "where you are" is thought to be only in a mindset of drinks and juice boxes and mix-mingles for clothing and food drives, then we are just attacking the issues always at it’s lowest levels...picking at the low hanging fruit.

Don't get me wrong. I support attention getting and the fun stuff that helps to meet focus on and satisfy immediate needs. So let’s set the hurt feelings and egos aside, I am not saying these things are a waste in fact we need the “attention getters” to wake some folks up. We have had some pretty cool stuff happening here in West Michigan and should celebrate it! But here is the “come to Jesus, Buddha, or whatever your deity” moment... When are we going to create, support and give much more public attention to enterprises and solutions that work towards seriously changing the systems that cause the bleeding? What I mean is, truly looking at reducing or eliminating the "wicked problems" in our communities by reaching in and working together to co-create the solutions that stop the bleeding at the source. Yes, this may mean that some nonprofits are working towards to putting themselves out of business but wasn’t eliminating poverty, homelessness, hunger the reason we all got into it in the first place? But really, there is plenty of pain in the world to stop and nonprofits are reinventing and expanding everyday in order to stop the pain. (Note: As of March 2011 there 1.5 million nonprofits operating in the U.S. Source: http://blog.nolo.com/blog/2011/03/28/fun-facts-about-us-nonprofits-1971-present)

I don’t know this young lady, but it seems that Emily Stoddard Furrow’s comments are less on hating and more a call to action for us to see the often invisible systematic issues behind the “wicked problems” and to work just as diligently to help seriously reduce or eliminate the need for the shelter, the food drive, or the juice box.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Future of Capitalism

Capitalism is bad, evil, and counterproductive. At least this was at one time some of my thinking.

Several years back I was in a conversation with a friend about capitalism. She felt that globalization would drive down hourly pay and that everyone would make the same amount of money. I cannot clearly recall all of her rationale for this view but it did challenge my thinking on capitalism. I started to think about how capitalism could and would possibly look different in the years to come.

Fast forward to now. As we move through the global downturn, many have thought about how capitalism could be different in the wake of the market crash and the environment of globalization. Inextricably connected in the global market through technology has made it almost impossible not to have what happens in one part of the world not impact others in the far reaches of the earth. It is not only “if America sneezes” it is “if [insert country of choice] sneezes others in the world get a cold”.

I have come to the realization that globalization will be here to stay but it will allow capitalism to take on a different and more open forms that will allow those who have been disenfranchised from it to take a hold of opportunity. Individuals can now manufacture items from home and sell them globally. Getting a microloan is just a click away if you have a good idea (kickstarter.com or Kiva.com). The small entrepreneur has a global reach and virtually anyone can start what I call a “kitchen table” business.

To explore this idea and more check out Big Think’s article: The Future of Capitalism

It is full of interesting views that will make you think more deeply about the world ahead.

Here’s to the Future,


Monday, July 5, 2010

What is the Future of Education?

What can we learn from educational platforms in other places? How are social entrepreneurs changing education in the developing world? How can we create educational platforms that look nothing like school?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Talent Management Lessons from India

Organizations are greatly impacted by how they manage their talent. Harvard Business Review's March 2010 issue article: Leadership Lessons from India show how India's largest companies have focused on talent development and employee engagement as a competitive sweetspot. Are there lessons for the Western workplace?