Why does collaboration and strategy fail for lots of nonprofits?
I've been slowly unraveling clues to these neverending questions for a while. Especially in discussion groups. It couldn't just be about "the strategic plan," could it?
Everyday group dynamics, innovation skill building, designing new processes: Were these not at least some of the ingredients to building adaptive organiations?
In theory, that was the ideal. It's hard to sweep this under the rug as another nice-to-have – or just something you do annually – when rapid complexity and sweeping economic forces constantly rock the boat every day.
But with so much time spent at the 50000 ft view of things, I wondered why no one bothers breaking the silence with the biggest elephant in the room: The stuff that happens everyday at ground zero.
That was my concern in the first place. Because depending on were you hung out, they acknowledged the final destination. But the ground preparation, runway, and various waypoints to reach those heights? Zero feedback on how to do it.
That was the void I wanted to address.
But I eventually threw my peace sign and ducked out.
I've been reading Dr. Min Basadur's and Warren Berger's work for quite some time now. They say a lot of the right things when it comes to the art of questioning, discovering problems, and designing systems and environments for creativity and innovation — starting with what goes on in our heads.
Min is both a scientist and active practitioner in the field of applied creativity and organizational behavior. He's also a very gracious coach. If there was someone I had to see, it was definitely him. And Warren Berger's innovation journalism is really solid. He covered Min in his recent book "A More Beautiful Question."
In my own quest to connect the dots, I finally flew into Burlington, Canada to meet him and learn the repertoire from Dr. Min himself.
And with so many aha! insights, I decided to kick start a series of slideshows to show a glimpse of what I've learned, and continue to adapt into my current practice.
Some questions get answered through experience. Here's one of them.
Organizations might attempt "design thinking," thinking lean, or business model design, but soon the energy behind the novelty eventually dies down. These are good avenues to explore, but if it hasn't unconditioned its bad habits, they risk relapsing into the same thinking patterns it routinely knew from before. And guess what happens to those new tools.
Not saying this is easy. Lots of us want to build agile organizations, but are stunned to discover that this type of capacity in the real world calls for a vastly wider repertoire than what's popularized.
If one doesn't see, feel, and experience what it's like to skillfully gather diverse people in the same room, and run any problem through a process – it's easy to backpedal into our old routine.
Getting buy-in, shifting minds, and breaking old patterns can be tough.
But with consistent deliberate effort, mindfulness, and some experiential learning, entire organizations can get to where they want to be.
That's all I'll say for now. I hope this assists some fellow nonprofit leaders catch up on a few things.