The industrial age and the fusion age

 

In the upcoming Everyone Innovates Here book, I found myself grappling with what to call the emerging economic/cultural/technical era that most of us feel that we are entering. I decided that the term that worked the best for me was the Fusion Age, but I only briefly unpack that in the book -- I needed to lay it out enough to make the case, but not end up down a futurism rabbit hole.  We are still squinting through the mist at this point, and I’m sure the name that the historians use won’t settle in place for a couple of decades yet.

 

But I think it’s important for all of us to be thinking hard about what seems to be coming and how that is already beginning to change how we work and communicate, and even think.  As I do spend some time on in the book, a variety of pressures are pushing us to make that transition faster than we probably would if left to our own devices.

 

Chances are you have already encountered, read about or at least sensed some of these evolutions. So here’s a Cliff Notes version of the transitions as they seem to be unfolding:

 

  • Labor-> Problem solving.  The Industrial Era depended on a plentiful supply of labor who could be trained, coerced and structured to deliver products efficiently (hence, the assembly line).  Fusion Era challenges appear to lend themselves less to the application of routine, infinitely repeatable processes, but they depend on the ability to generate creative solutions to problems.  Businesses increasing prize problem-solving and teamwork over most other skills, even though systems ranging from education to human resource management still often resemble Industrial Era counterparts.

 

  • Supply chains -> Networks.  Industrial-Era businesses typically relied on a daisy chain of suppliers -- and when possible, they directly controlled the entire chain - for example, U.S. Steel’s control over everything from the Minnesota ore fields to the ships to the steel mills.  By contrast, even our early Fusion Era businesses are counseled to focus only on their “core” business -- they rely on an extensive network of vendors, and may not even own their own office buildings.

 

  • Protocols -> Adaptive systems.  Industrial-Era businesses and organizations tended to rely on codified processes -- manuals, procedures, regulations.  Fusion Era organizations appear increasingly likely to rely on adaptive and evolving processes, such as the Holacracy method adopted by companies like Zappos that are trying to keep a competitive innovation edge in a field experiencing rapid evolution.

 

  • Defenders -> Belayers.  Much has been written about what “modern” leadership should look like, and those writings bear little resemblance to the Organization Man of the 1960s.  One way of thinking about this transition: traditional leadership derived much of its command-and-control approach from a responsibility to defend the organization from challenges, whether from outside or internal, that threatened or challenged the organization’s structure, culture, norms, etc.  Contemporary leadership approaches are focusing more and more on enabling and empowering employees -- like a belayer on a climbing team, whose job is to make certain that the climber can reach the pinnacle.

 

  • Buckets -> Currents.  Industrial-Era processes tend to group things, separate things, classify things.  Again, the traditional assembly line gives us our best mental image of that -- men in the town where I grew up spent years executing the same step in the manufacturing process, like installing a fender or cutting hot steel into specified lengths,  over and over again. Manufacturing made an early shift to the Fusion Era on this front, with team-based methods and systematized quality control becoming the norm from auto manufacturing to paper mills by the 1990s. Now most manufacturing processes have a team that follows the product through much, if not all, of the production system together.  

 

  • Sole source -> Aggregator/Curator.  In the Industrial era, most of your information came from a limited number of sources: one or two newspapers, three TV channels, perhaps a couple of magazines or the occasional club meeting presentation.  We are acutely aware at this moment as to how that has changed, as formal and informal sources across the spectrum have exploded. One of the most profound long-term implications of this appears to be the rise of the curator/aggregator function -- the vetting, packaging and presentation of sources.  On the surface, this can look like a return to the older form, but the role is significantly different, as the curator depends on its reputation for selecting correctly and does not directly control the editorial. The proliferation of professional conferences, sometimes targeting very narrow verticals, appears to speak to this emerging Fusion Age role.  

 

  • Efficient -> Resilient.  The Industrial Age, perhaps more than anything else, prized efficiency. The entire purpose of the assembly line, the paper mill, the mega-farm, the state education system, was to gain efficiencies, both in terms of speed and in terms of consistency and predictability.  But as writers such as Nassim Taleb have demonstrated, efficiency comes at a cost: the more efficient a system is, the more fragile it is. A system that is designed to optimize efficiency depends on a complex chain of elements designed to fit precisely….but if one piece fails, there is no backup.  And in a world of high unpredictability, resiliency arguably matters more than optimal efficiency.

 

I will unpack the ramifications of some of these shifts in upcoming posts.  But these shifts drive Econogy’s mission: we understand that we need new ways of working, learning and collaborating to thrive in the Fusion Era, and that is true of experienced professionals and students alike.  The sooner we learn to Create Fusion in our work and our communities, the sooner we will overcome the most stubborn of our current challenges.

How to find the Path

If everything is changing, how do we know which way to go?

If the ways we work, buy, learn, collaborate, discover, you name it, are being transformed, how do we know what our business or organization should do to succeed?

And if all of that is happening so fast that we haven’t absorbed the last thing before it’s time to move on, then how do we make the right decisions to get us to a strong long-term future?

Everything has changed.  And chances are it will change a whole lot more.

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During my years as an urban planner, I based dozens of plans on linear extrapolations. If Town X averaged 3% growth per decade over the past 30 years, then we projected future population growth as a continuation of that 3% trend. Employment changing? Households smaller? Less in-migration?

I’m ashamed to admit today, we didn’t always ask those questions. If we had, some of those towns might have had different plans.  

But businesses and organizations make the same mistake.

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Econogy Talent Group was built to accelerate sustainable change in a future that we can’t simply extrapolate.  Businesses that operate today the same way they did in 1985… are probably no longer businesses.

ETG specializes in change.  Our best work comes when there is no tried-and-true blueprint to follow, because our youth-driven Innovation Teams don’t see the barriers that more experienced people take for granted.  

One of the tools we use to help our Innovation Teams find new solutions is the Pathfinder framework.  We’ve used Pathfinder with businesses, nonprofits, and even neighborhoods. And it consistently works.

Pathfinder

  • Equips our clients with the Insight they need  -- about themselves, and about the world through which they are moving.

  • Enables them to articulate the Impact they want to make -- not just in terms of some grand ideal, but in terms of the concrete behaviors and access needed to make that Impact.

  • Identifies several alternative Pathways -- specific strategies and tactics to make that Impact happen

  • Creates a synchronized Action Plan to make it happen.  

Pathfinder helped one of our clients raise $5 million in start-up funds for an online business that was the first in its industry. Pathways helped another client identify a way to meet its Impact goals while at the same time setting it apart from the competition.  And Pathways is even helping an entire community define and claim its own identity - and leverage their strengths to attract new residents and businesses.  

You can learn more about Econogy’s Pathfinder method here. We’d love to learn about how we can help you find a Pathway to your future.  

Anxiety for innovators

As far as I can tell, nearly every startup leader, innovator, entrepreneur, intrapreneur or other change-maker experiences bouts of anxiety. You almost can’t help it. Whether it’s the urgent needs of the present, the ghost of past crises or an uncertain and uncontrollable future, creating something new and worthwhile seems to require some level of anxiety.  

For some people, that manifests in paralysis, in another a periodic stomach ache or the sleepless nights that are part of the entrepreneur stereotype. Sometimes we don’t realize how anxious we really are until some relatively minor issue, like a traffic jam or a glitching computer, seems to knock the lid of of our internal well of unease. And of course, for some people trying to control that anxiety seems to pave a path to unethical decisions, substance abuse, depression or worse.  We’ve seen plenty of examples of those.

The awareness that some level of anxiety is almost inevitable when doing something that matters provides a little bit of comfort.  We can think of it as sort of the cost to participate in the adventure that we have undertaken. We know that there’s probably an easier route, but we also know in our guts what price that route would exact from us.  

I suspect that for most of us, the big challenge we face is in learning to manage our anxiety, learning to live with it and be with it and accept it as a part of the process.  Mediation types talk about accepting thoughts and feelings, not trying to judge them or control them, which is apparently why you have to “practice.” Living with it without controlling it does not seem to  come naturally.

For me, simply acknowledging that I’m anxious seems to help.  I’m not routinely self-reflective, and I can be very much on edge without having any conscious awareness of how anxious I really am. Ironically, people around me can usually spot it before I can.  But once I know it’s there, I can usually manage it down to a dull roar.

But it never truly leaves, and I think that in itself is a useful recognition.  Perhaps we don’t need to expect it to leave. Perhaps managed anxiety has a value to the work we are trying to do.  

And if nothing else, writing about it might help you feel more at peace with it.  

 

***NOTE: I am nothing resembling a psychologist.  I don’t know where clinical, chemical/hormonal anxiety starts and life anxiety-type anxiety begins.  I don’t actually know if there’s a line between them or is it’s a mix of both or what. If you have anxiety that’s interfering with your life, get counseling.  Your experience may vary… a lot. And while some anxiety might be inevitable, your life should not suck. If it does, you may need more than deep breathing and a positive perspective.  Get help.

Innovation Outside our Inside

We have commonly identified innovation as a thing that occurs inside something else, like a business or a team. The innovation team, the skunkworks, the intrapreneur.  That new-thing-creating function might have tentacles that reach out into the world and pull new stimuli in, like the tentacles of an octopus, but it's being done to feed or inform the discrete animal.

What happens if we switch the metaphor -- from pulling on the universe to feed a single creature, to building, strengthening, growing the universe that the thing is feeding off of?  What if the job of fostering innovation is not just that of feeding the thing in which we live, but feeding the thing where we all live?

That risks sounding a little kum-ba-yah, but it may be a pragmatically more effective, and more functional, strategy in the economy that is emerging around us.  As industries by and large shift from vertical integration to complex supply networks, as local economies become intricately intertwined with global forces and dependent on global trends, we may find that the health of the network matters more  -- not just to our happiness, but our personal and company survival, than whether we are able to pull enough stuff inside our own membranes. If the network we depend on becomes toxic, how strong we are inside our fragile borders may not matter very much.

When I first started writing about technology startups, I heard founders express faith that if you built something of value, it would generate income in some manner. This optimism appealed to me, but I had a hard time believing it: I had spent my life in the transactional world, often struggling to find adequate payment for the value I thought I was providing.

I don't know if it played out the way these folks thought it would.  That doesn't mean they were wrong -- their creation may not have become Google, but for many it allowed them to step into a good job with a good community.  And so even if it didn't follow the plan some might have expected, it seems like it worked in some fashion. You don’t find a whole lot of unemployed ex-software founders.

Tech people adapted the use of the term "ecosystem" to describe the system-within-a larger-system that they were trying to cultivate. They knew that their economic and personal success -- given their skills and the nature of their businesses and the defining factors of the technology that they were built on -- would require an economic and interpersonal structure very different from what the Organization Man industries had relied on before. So they had to not only reach out the tentacles, but be ready to dissolve their own walls, integrating into the network in a way that operating agreements and non disclosure forms didn’t fit.  

I’m by no means the first, and definitely not the last, to draw this analogy.  But with every month, with every new technology, this networked paradigm becomes more and more part of the underpinning of how we operate.  The risk in any period of change happens when your paradigm breaks its internal consistency -- when we perceive the emerging system, but we act and say and do according to an outdated and ill-fitting set of rules.  When we intellectually understand our dependence on the network, but we continue to simply grab out of it whatever we can.

Conventional wisdom says that a blog post should have a straightforward five-point solution, easy take-aways.  But what we’re talking about is really awareness: being conscious of the fact that our experience paradigm and our doing paradigm may be clashing, creating problems that we didn’t need or want.  

There’s no clear road map to the emerging economy.  But here’s five take-aways that might help for now:

  1. Be aware

  2. Be aware of what actions fit the old or new systems

  3. Decide where you want to be

  4. Act on that intentionally

  5. Keep doing that.  A lot.

Everybody Innovates Here

This article is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book Everybody Innovates Here: Developing a higher-impact, more sustainable, more effective system to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship. Click Here to learn more about the book and sign up for updates.

In 2013, I wrote a book called The Local Economy Revolution that described how conventional economic development and urban planning methods were failing to create the kind of communities we need in the emerging era. In 2015, I wrote a book called Crowdsourcing Wisdom that addressed one of the core failings I had identified: a systematic failure to meaningfully involve everyone in a community in making decisions about their communities’ futures.

In 2016, I put two more partially- completed books on hold to work on a start up. My distraction didn’t come from an app or a shop:

It came from the opportunity to build groundbreaking new systems that could enable the change I’d been grasping for.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve seen close-up what systems for accelerated innovation can do. I’ve watched people who haven’t yet finished college equip a business to raise millions in investment. I’ve seen 60-year-old founders’ eyes open wide when they’re shown a solution they had never considered — by a team whose average age is 24. I’ve watched an overlooked neighborhood discover its hidden assets and find its authentic voice.

And we’ve worked with innovators across the spectrum, across silos and across the country to learn more about new ways of working and doing, better and faster.

What we have learned at Econogy is:

  • We need much more innovation, from the grassroots to the corporate, and from the social to the technical. And we need that innovation to get out of the local test, the pilot stage, much faster and better than its often does.
  • We need, as a culture, to get much better at innovation if we want to have half a chance of meeting the stunning array of challenges in front of us.
  • We have been leaving innovation too much to chance for something that we need so much. We’ve relied on magical thinking, unquestioned rules of thumb and feel-good anecdotes, and we’ve gotten haphazard results, at best, as a result — haphazard results that waste much of our best assets.

This book captures what innovation districts, startup ecosystems and other parts of this emerging sector need to do differently if we are all to build the world that we need in the emerging era. We need

  • more innovators,
  • more completely and fully diverse innovators,
  • more intentional innovation growth,
  • more intentional connectivity
  • more intentional interlacing between corporate, institution, starters and non-profits, and
  • more intentional effort to not only start more, but enable every start to reach its full capacity, locally or globally.

We’re glad you’re along for the journey.

What we learned about unexpected innovators

This article is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book Everybody Innovates Here: Developing a higher-impact, more sustainable, more effective system to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship. Click Here to learn more about the book and sign up for updates.

For my Econogy co-founder, Owen, and I, the purpose of Econogy has been to accelerate innovation for the places and people we care most about. That includes universities and neighborhoods, businesses and nonprofits, wealthy and disadvantaged, students and seniors. We focused our first two years on building a new machinery of innovation: a system for unlocking the capabilities and lack of barriers that one overlooked source of innovation — young adults — bring to problem-solving.

We found that a support structure that combined diverse teams, clear processes, and high-stakes stretch challenges resulted in practical but innovative solutions to problems that had no cookie-cutter answers. From both a business and a human development standpoint, the results were better than (I, at least) anticipated.

We then tried the same methods with adults of varying ages faced with creating strategy for their community’s future, and we had similar results.

Consistently, people outperform our expectations when we place around them a structure that enables them to solve problems collaboratively and constructively. And innovation research has found the same:

  • Diverse teams consistently make better decisions, potentially because they “alter the behavior of a group’s social majority in ways that lead to improved and more accurate group thinking.”
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  • When teams use explicit structured processes to evaluate choices and make decisions, they are more likely to succeed — and when leaders assume that the team will take care of itself, the team is more likely to fail.
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  • Creating useful solutions to problems that do not have direct precedents require a fundamentally different approach than simply tweaking things that have been done before. And being too familiar with the things that have been done before can be like a pair of blinders, making it impossible to see feasible alternatives that fall outside your expectations.
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At Econogy, these experiences gave us proof of concept on something bigger: we had a small but accumulating body of evidence about how we could enable people to accelerate innovation. 

For someone who had spent over 20 years trying to improve problem-solving in communities as a downtown revitalization, urban planning and economic development specialist, this was the kind of insight I’d been looking for. You see, I’d become trapped by my conventional understanding of how economies and teams work, too.

Before co-founding Econogy, I had written a lot of lines in a lot of blogs and articles and books about how local economies needed to change, and how the ways we were pushing that to happen weren’t working. I had spent hundreds of hours with tech startups, mom and pop shops, universities, microentrepreneurs, and the organizations that try to take care of them. And I knew we needed something different.

But I didn’t know what.

After two years of working out the mechanisms for supporting diverse team innovation, and combining that with decades of experience with economic and community support organizations, we think that most cities need empowered innovation districts to accelerate innovation across the complete economic and community spectrum.

There’s a lot of different kinds of organizations in this process, and they go by different names in different places. So for sake of simplicity, we’re going to call all of these organizations Innovation Systems.

An Innovation System, as we are describing it, is a program, a place or a group of programs and places that play a role in generating more economic activity from the people who are in a community. These might include anything from a tech accelerator to a regional rural entrepreneurship collaborative, from a university advanced manufacturing initiative to a class for African-American urban residents.

That’s a radical statement, in case you didn’t notice. Historically, we have carefully parsed these segments apart — tech programs over here, Main Street business owners over here. We differentiate them based on how much money they might make, where their clients live, where they will have their shop, whether we designate them as having a “social impact,” and more. And yes, they will have certain needs that are specific to their unique situation.

What we find over and over is this: Innovators and entrepreneurs are often more similar than different. They all need help innovating. They all need help getting out of their own paradigm. And they can all learn from each other.

 

 

Babies

I was not a baby person. I am now--- I make faces and play peek a boo with little ones in the grocery store until my teenagers complain.  But when those same kids were little, I could never shake the sense that the world was moving on without me.

When you have a baby, the baby runs your life. You adapt you life to the baby's schedule (or lack thereof). You work your own needs around those of this tiny creature.  And during that time, your world often seems to shrink to the limits of the nursery.

Some people relish that experience- they love that sense of focus, of nurturing, of having one's sole purpose bound up in helping this beautiful, fascinating, beloved little creature grow. Others, and I have to confess this was me, feel that period as a sort of personal dislocation- you're not who you were before, and this new role seems like an alternate universe. And the glimpses you get of your pre-baby world only add to that sense of getting left behind..

Starting a business can feel the same way. In my own case, I found that the opportunity that came to me required that I put everything else I had been investing my energy in…. Away. On a back burner. In the back of the closet.  My focus narrowed to the new thing that needed my full attention.

I referred to the business as my “new baby.” That was a lot closer to the truth than most people probably understood.

During this phase, there's nothing better that you can do for the parent than help them gain a new perspective.  We find this every time one of our Innovation Teams works with a young business.  When you're head-down in making the machinery work all day, every day, it's easy to miss what's happening outside your door -- the changes and trends that could have a big impact on how your bundle of joy grows.  A freash perspective, from people who can see the world ourside your front door, can make all the difference in your success.  

The sometimes-tragedy, sometimes-mercy of the baby stage is that it's short. Ridiculously short, at least in retrospect (even if in the middle it seemed to last forever).  The tiny creature that could not control his arms is running in less time than it takes to get a Master's degree, and then you find yourself arguing with a six foot hairy man in front of the same window where you rocked him as a helpless baby...

Maybe the lesson for entrepreneurs and innovators is the same one us older parents say to people with little ones- the statement that gets the vague polite head-nod while the baby pulls Dad's hair, the one that we know got the same reaction from us when someone said it 19 years ago:

“Enjoy this time…it goes so fast.”

Strengths and weaknesses and who we are.

weaknesses-1.jpg

We spend a lot of time dealing with strengths and weaknesses. We do StrengthFinders tests on our students, we do SWOT analyses for our Link clients, and we spend hours coaching our students and young professionals on items of professional management that they have not yet learned.

We all know that we have things that we are good at, and things that we are… not so good at. If we work for a large company, chances are we can find a place to slot it… we can find a role that makes the most of our strengths and keeps us from getting in too much trouble from our weaknesses.

But as our businesses get smaller, and as so many of us find ourselves running small businesses or organizations at some point in our lives, our weaknesses get more and more in our way. For a lot of us, the biggest weakness (and threat to the work that we care about) comes in the form of the stuff that we know is necessary, but isn’t what we got into this to spend our time on. Love dogs and excel at training them? Chances are you don’t want to spend your time on accounting. Great at designing new projects? Chances are you might not be so good at marketing.

When you run a small business, you find yourself having to do everything because you don’t have anyone else to do it. And chances are, you don’t know how to do the things that you have to do, or you don’t know how to do them well or efficiently.

The difference between the success and failure of your work probably doesn’t depend on how you do the things you love -- the purpose of your business, the things that you knew your could do well enough to offer them to other people. Most of the time, the failure of a business - and more than four out of five small businesses fail within a few years of their start - happens because one of their weaknesses did them in. The best dog groomer who does not understand marketing, or the smartest investor who cannot manage employees, end up in the same situation - losing money and looking for a job.

Every small business owner needs to take a clear-eyed look at their weaknesses -- and either build up their skills in that space, or get help.

That was our purpose with Econogy Talent Group. We give you that help — from people who know how to do it right.

Understanding and Collaborative Problem-Solving around Gentrification: a white paper

This white paper was prepared for two reasons:

  1. Carlos Chacon Cupello of Kratos Experiences and I gave a session on using innovative public engagement to ease conflict over gentrification at the National Main Street conference in March
  2. At almost exactly the same time, the illustrious Mark Barbash was teaching the first session (I think, ever) on gentrification to a training sponsored by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

Mark and I had discussed the topic and we knew what the other one was doing, but we intentionally didn’t tell each other what we were going to do until afterward. When we did talk, we found that we had converged in an interesting way:

We had both concluded that talking intelligently about gentrification required admitting what you don’t know and talking in diverse groups to try to identify solutions.

In my session with Carlos, we used Kratos’s new K2 group problem-solving method to simulate what might happen if people from all of the sides of a gentrification conflict were able to problem-solve together. A conference session is not exactly a real-life duplicate, of course, but it gave the participants (and Carlos and I) some insight into the human dynamics that turn development proposals into gentrification fights, and how those might be avoided, or at least lessened.

You can download the white paper here. To learn more about Econogy’s system for building and managing high-talent, uber-diverse teams to solve the toughest problems, check out Econogy.co. To learn more about the K2 method, visit kratosexperiences.com

When you’re not the whole package: help from Future-Ready Teams

When you’re not the whole package: help from Future-Ready Teams

We built Econogy Talent Group because we saw too many small businesses, including ones we owned, living with this no-win situation. Leaders needed to focus on their strengths, but hiring full-time conventional staff was too much risk to bear.  Especially when their greatest need was foresight and a clear strategy for the future.

ETG’s future-ready teams allow you to focus where you can use your strengths.  

8 Books You Should Read This Winter

By Jayvon Howard

 Photo: A man in a hat and scarf holding a book in one hand while browsing for other books on a table. 

Photo: A man in a hat and scarf holding a book in one hand while browsing for other books on a table. 

Winter is coming!

As the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to decline we often find that the changing weather can disrupt how we spend our days. In colder temperatures we may find ourselves needing to exchange our outdoor living to more indoor activities. If you’re needing something to do, this is a great time to revisit some of your reading lists!

At Econogy we thrive on literature and knowledge to expand our imagination, deepen our experiences and develop a greater understanding of our collective and individual impacts in society.

Here are some of our favorite reads for a winter day:
 

Between the World & Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

 

Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good
By Chuck Collins

As inequality grabs headlines, steals the show in presidential debates, and drives deep divides between the haves and have nots in America, class war brews. On one side, the wealthy wield power and advantage, wittingly or not, to keep the system operating in their favor—all while retreating into enclaves that separate them further and further from the poor and working class. On the other side, those who find it increasingly difficult to keep up or get ahead lash out—waging a rhetorical war against the rich and letting anger and resentment, however justifiable, keep us from seeing new potential solutions.

 

The Count of Monte Cristo
By Alexander Dumas

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. 

 

Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach To Peacemaking
By Kay Pranis

Our ancestors gathered around a fire in a circle, families gather around their kitchen tables in circles, and now we are gathering in circles as communities to solve problems. Peacemaking Circles are used in neighborhoods to provide support for those harmed by crime and to decide sentences for those who commit crime, in schools to create positive classroom climates and resolve behavior problems, in the workplace to deal with conflict, and in social services to develop more organic support systems for people struggling to get their lives together.

 

The Man Who Planted Trees
By Jean Giono

Simply written, but powerful and unforgettable, The Man Who Planted Trees is a parable for modern times. In the foothills of the French Alps the narrator meets a shepherd who has quietly taken on the task of planting one hundred acorns a day in an effort to reforest his desolate region. Not even two world wars can keep the shepherd from continuing his solitary work. Gradually, this gentle, persistent man's work comes to fruition: the region is transformed; life and hope return; the world is renewed.

 

Giovanni's Room
By James Baldwin

Set in the 1950's Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

 

The Sellout
By Paul Beatty

A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty's The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.

 

Their Eyes Were Watching God
By Zora Neale Hurston

When Janie, at sixteen, is caught kissing shiftless Johnny Taylor, her grandmother swiftly marries her off to an old man with sixty acres. Janie endures two stifling marriages before meeting the man of her dreams, who offers not diamonds, but a packet of flowering seeds.

Our Values: Finding Solutions Together

Conventional consulting firms often operate as outside experts -- they parachute in with a packet of recommendations, deposit them in a neat pile with the client, and then take off to their office without looking back.   

This model works when a client only wants to take advantage of a consultants expert-ness, their expertise. If what you need is guidance on how to apply clearly predictable “best practices,” or to implement the Received Wisdom of an industry, then what you need is a Keeper of the Best Practices. You want that expert consultant to just tell you what to do.

A consultant-as-expert only approach works well in situations that are highly predictable -- where markets, and technology, and needs, and assumptions can be applied from a past situation to a current challenge with high confidence. This practice assumes what has worked well in the past can also apply in the present and will evidently operate the same in the future. It becomes a matter of cutting and pasting, and the consultant is the keeper of the big book where all the answers and solutions to problems lie.

But the world has changed.  We don’t find very many of these situations anymore.

Econogy emphasizes Co-Creation -- with clients, with consumers, with community members. This strategy places significant emphasis on bringing together multiple parties to reach solutions. We find that most issues that we encounter do not have cut-and-paste answers, but are instead defined by disorder and complexity that challenges problem solving beyond what any person can work out alone regardless of expertise. The greatest opportunities for real solutions are discovered when we pull multiple minds, hearts and perspectives into the search for the right way forward. At Econogy we intentionally design our internal processes and design our client projects to maximize co-creation. 

We seek clients who want to create with us, who want to learn and discover what works through a partnership of talented minds and sound practices, not just get handed an age old list of ill-fitting answers.

 An Econogy/Catapult team recently designed a new Graphical User Interface (GUI) for a handheld device.  This client values the fact that our teams work in partnership with them - we build on our shared expertise and co-create the solution.

An Econogy/Catapult team recently designed a new Graphical User Interface (GUI) for a handheld device.  This client values the fact that our teams work in partnership with them - we build on our shared expertise and co-create the solution.

From the corner: Growth is hard.

To grow and to improve, we must do things that are uncomfortable. We must take do things that scare us, that push us into a direction where we would not have gone if we simply let our own inertia determine our direction.

Sometimes we grow because we have no other choice-- because something in our circumstances determined the change of course without asking our permission.

But if we are serious, if we truly intend to grow as much as we can, if we decide that we will capitalize on the full extent of our potential…

Then we cannot coast and we cannot leave growth to chance.

Intentional growth requires seeking out, embracing and grappling with the things that would change us.

It means agreeing to do things that we don't completely know how to do.

It means accepting failure and criticism, even blunt criticism, and intentionally grasping that as tools for building your own growth.

It means trusting others, being honest with others, sharing your limitations with others, so that they can join you in building your growth, as well as theirs.

We all know deeply that not growing means dying. And none of us want that. But are we working on our growth, or are we just hoping vaguely that it will happen?

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From the corner: Strengths and Weaknesses

 We spend a lot of time dealing with strengths and weaknesses.  We do StrengthFinders tests on our students, we do SWOT analyses for our Link clients, and we spend hours coaching our students and young professionals on items of professional management that they have not yet learned.

We all know that we have things that we are good at, and things that we are…not so good at.  If we have worked for a large company, chances are we can find a place to slot ourselves, our niche.  We can find a role that makes the most of our strengths and keeps us from getting in too much trouble from our weaknesses.  

But as our businesses get smaller, and as so many of us find ourselves running small businesses or organizations at points in our lives, our weaknesses get more and more in our way.  For a lot of us, the biggest weakness (and threat to the work that we care about) comes in the form of the stuff that we know is necessary, but isn’t what we get to spend our time on. Do you love dogs and excel at training them?  Chances are you don’t want to spend your time on accounting.  Great at designing new projects?  Chances are you might not be so good at marketing.  

When you run a small business, you find yourself having to do everything because you don’t have anyone else to do it. And chances are, you don’t know how to do the things that you have to do, or you don’t know how to do them well or efficiently.  

The difference between the success and failure of your work probably doesn’t depend on how you do the things you love -- the purpose of your business, the things that you knew your could do well enough to offer them to other people.  Most of the time, the failure of a business - and more than four out of five small businesses fail within a few years of their start - happens because one of their weaknesses did them in.  The best dog groomer who does not understand marketing, or the smartest investor who cannot manage employees, end up in the same situation - losing money and looking for a job.

Every small business owner needs to take a clear-eyed look at their weaknesses -- and either build up their skills in that space and get help doing so.

We designed Econogy to help you address those weaknesses.