Monday, November 13, 2006

Muck and Mire of Media Manipulation

Brewed Fresh Daily has a blog today "Define Gaming" which goes to the heart of why we need trusted lines of communication.

I think we need to reframe the dialogue on gaming. I was reading my tech posts realized that in a creative economy gaming refers to video games not gambling. There are a lot of people in this area working on making Northeast Ohio a videogame development mecca. Why aren’t more political leaders putting their political clout behind that? [BFD]

The same thing has taken place with the smoking industry as in the gambling industry. Proponents recognize that their organizations have a sleazy reputation and work very hard to sanitize the perception. To a certain extent it is all spin but it also serves to confuse intentionally.

Open communication is how we all work through the smoke and mirrors to determine for ourselves that information that is important for our decision making. This is where blogs do their part, along with civic forums in which we all agree to behave in ways that build trust and respect. We need to continue to build our own trust networks so that there are people and organizations we can go to in order to avoid the muck and mire of media manipulation.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Taking the Easy Way

Why do we often seem to take the easy way to deal with our fears? The greater the fear the more we move to the easy, short time solution. This behavior is not just restricted to our leaders, but also occurs in the followers. Somehow we have stop using our brains to think strategically but have accepted a strategic plan and stuck to it. We have accepted that the ends justify the means.

The using of, what is for me are questionable, means applies in our fight against terrorism; our thirst for unending supplies of oil; our quest for a secure, accurate voting system; our desire for affordable college educations; and our move towards sustainable economies. Yes, when problems caused by our actions come to the fore, we can always say that we did not know then what we know now, but why do we not work harder, think strategically in an accountable manner, and apply some innovative solutions. We need to review our values and not always accept the answer based on money. Let us look at that which recognizes basic human values and celebrates the ability to think with the brainpower in us all.

Friday, October 13, 2006


For years Clevelanders have had the same development leaders. In the last decade their leadership has been less than effective as evidenced by the state of the region, especially in comparison to most other Midwest regions. At what point do we, as the community hold them accountable and either encourage them to severely change their behavior or move aside for people who embrace new effective practices?

Economic development leaders are community leaders only because the community says they are and treats them as such. It appears that these leaders are too much into invest, command, and control rather than invest and advise. As a region we need to refrain from viewing the behavior as a top down process but to turn everything on its side so that we are all on an even plane. We need to stop allowing hierarchies to be the driving force in Cleveland.

Let's return to the old Golden Rule; moving from "He who has the gold, rules." to "Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Are Apes Descended from Man?

I am always looking for new ways to make the box bigger rather than thinking outside the box. Here is a new way to look at evolution.

Perhaps much of the confusion arising through the controversy over evolution between religion and science comes from a viewpoint by both on what may have occurred. How about viewing Apes as descended from Man (or Woman)?

There also is a question about what is Man. Is Man homo sapiens or something else? When a person dies, the homo sapiens dies but the Man continues. With that view, Man has evolved from nothing or primordial ooze/clay while homo sapiens has appeared at some much later point in time. Man was created by God but homo sapiens evolved.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Way of Life

“We know how to save the world. We just don’t realize that we know what we know.”
Leonard Sweet

Where do we go where we feel safe enough to tell our stories, to experiment with thought, to express our dreams? Where to we go to hear new stories, to be challenged with new ideas, to be exposed to new opportunities? Where do we go to be supported, be supportive? To find synergies with others? To be collaborative in leadership and in following? To discover what we know and what we can do? To be passionate about our work?

Midtown does not have all the answers but for me there are many places where I feel safe to grow and collaborate. Sure there are those who focus only on their own agendae, but there are mostly those who are genuinely interested in where you are going and how they can help.

My style has always been to build upon the best practices of others. You can call it creative appropriation but seeing what works and applying it in new ways is so much faster and leaves brainpower for other problems. Whether it is creating or improving a website or setting up a new chart of accounts, I find that I often look for samples of what has been done before. However, my style requires the input of others and that is where my relationships in Midtown come in.

I also find that I do a lot of strategic thinking so that when something happens I am not completely unprepared to move forward quickly and informed. I also find that in my work as manager and administrator, there has been less managing people but more managing systems and providing support for people who inhabit those systems.

Midtown has been supportive of that style and has allowed me to grow into myself. Midtown is a way of life. Experience it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Open to New Ways

As I listed in my blog when I first started, we need to re-envision the box. We need to leave ourselves open to new interpretations, new ways of thinking, listening, and doing. We also need to communicate in new ways, using new methods and new language. There also needs to be accountability. There is a need for better, more, and faster communication. However, the only way that communication truly works is when there is open dialogue and honesty.

Now more than ever.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's All About Collaboration

"There are no competitors - It's all about collaboration."

Brad S. Kleinman

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Perfect Wave

Friday we were talking about economic development in Cleveland and an analogy was made to sitting on the beach watching the ocean. Those who are lake centric in Cleveland do like watching Lake Erie but I think this was more a thought of sitting on a wide sandy beach watching breakers roll ashore.

Clevelanders and its leaders in particular have too much of a tendency to sit on the beach watching the waves rather than catching the waves.

The thought conversations seem to go:

“Wow! Look at that wave. Well, we weren’t ready yet.

No, that one is not big enough.

Oooh! Look how that surfer is working that board. We can do that.

I wonder if our board is waxed enough.

We stayed up all night planning all the moves and I practiced them in the mirror. We might try them sometime.

That shop owner I talked with sold me a new board and said with it I can do all the new stuff.

I bet I look good in this suit. Red is my color.

Oh, there’s a good wave. Aw, somebody else is already on it.

Are there any cameras on me. They need to shoot from my right.

I wonder if the water is too cold. Am I wearing the right wet suit?

I wonder if I should ask the beach patrol if it’s okay to ride the waves here.

There’s a good wave, but I have sand in my suit.

We have the best boards, the best wet suits, and we know we are the best surfers. We just don’t have all our friends with us.

I really don’t want to look bad surfing.

Oooh! There’s another good wave. Ooops, too late.

Maybe tomorrow.”

Get in the water already!

Spelling “Team” With an “I”

The other day we were sitting around having a conversation about others' view of the Open Source Economic Development process. Some reported hearing that it seem like chaos theory. Someone reported of hearing about herding cats. From my perspective it is neither.

However, I do admit, from a certain perspective those comments are understandable. Previous economic practices demanded certain perspectives for understanding. I am sure that those living in the Bronze Age had behaviors which seemed strange to those still operating under the Iron Age thought process. We are now moving in the Second Curve economy which also may be called the Collaborative Innovation Economy. First Curve economic thinking has problems with some of the concepts. First Curve is about closed innovation: knowledge control; Second Curve is about open innovation: knowledge sharing. First Curve does not understand how a business can be successful if it is telling competitors and the world about its processes. First Curve views Second Curve behavior as chaos and Second Curve sees purposeful behavior with collaborative leadership.

So it goes with teamwork and the view of working as a team. When First Curve talks about working as a team, it is often about sublimating your own agenda for the team. There is a coach, a captain, and a manager, all who guide the team in its winning a game. Second Curve team (in first curve parlance) does not have a coach, a captain, or a manager. This team works with individuals who are aligned in a common goal which isn’t to beat someone else. The individual is very important for the strengths that it brings as well as the individual’s goals. Its goal is to provide a successful, sustainable end that meets the needs of all of the team as well as providing good for the community. The individual is in the team but not at the expense of others participating on the team. There is an alignment of all the “I”s on the team to forward moving behavior.

In First Curve there is also the thought that when there are two teams working to a seemingly common goal, the smaller team should merge with the larger team so as to strengthen the whole. What then happens is the larger team gains control and mass but loses nothing. The smaller team loses any individuality and differences that it may have had which quite possibly were its strengths.

I have often heard coaches tell their teams that “team” is not spelled with an “I”. In my Second Curve economy “team” is spelled with an “I” and is stronger, faster, and more sustainable for it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Living with a Disability

We all live with a disability: we are human. We make mistakes. We have other shortcomings. We are not perfect.

What most of us have to counter that disability is hope. We also have each other. Community is what brings us together and supports us all in our seeking to maintain or improve ourselves and each other.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Strap on Your Goggles!"

As a Director of the Institute for Open Economic Networks, also known as I-Open, (click here) I help teach and sustain behaviors in regional economic activity guided by Open Source Economic Development. The principal behaviors addressed lead to strengthening brain power, connecting innovation and entrepreneurship networks, building quality, connected places, strengthening civic habits of dialogue and inclusion, and promoting an effective brand through sharing positive stories of activity.

In our process we develop innovation zones in a region through civic forums that focus on story telling of best practices, experiences, building trust, and deepening knowledge of ourselves and our communities. Not only is there much learning and collaborative networking taking place with these forums, there also arise initiatives through alignment of individuals’ interests. Through the initiatives growth occurs through creation of entrepreneurial enterprises but also the creation of supportive environments for new activity.

Most recently, the past week a remarkable meeting took place at Nead Brand Partners (click here) , one of the supporters of our activity in the midtown area of Cleveland. In the midtown area where I-Open has been building an innovation zone, the initiatives and partners have grown enough that there is a demand to grow the hot spot out from Midtown to the surrounding neighborhoods that are not in “Midtown.” There is now discussion to further involve residents, not just civic leaders and entrepreneurs. People involved with several of the neighborhoods are excited with what has been going on in Midtown and are requesting that the innovation zone be reenvisioned and renamed so as to discourage concerns over "ownership" and to encourage inclusion and participation throughout the region.

There is now a call out to find a "brand" for the innovation zone that is unique to the area as was "Midtown My Town." The I-Open civic forum on August 9, 2006 is now looking to be a kick off of that expansion with participation from many neighborhoods and local development corporations. There will be an envisioning process taking place as took place with the initiation of the Midtown Innovation Zone.

As has been said before, "Strap on your goggles!" The zones are zooming.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sustainable Activity

For years our leaders have been telling us “If you want something done, give us more money public or private. We know what to do and will do it for you.” And for years they put together a strategic plan which gets packaged nicely and put on the shelf next to all of the other strategic plans. Occasionally we listen to someone who tells us that he can think out of the box and will do the right things for us. He ends up making the decisions for us and we gain no capability for sustainability because we have not increased our own abilities.

Occasionally someone comes in and listens to us and our ideas and then goes off and picks what he feels are the best ideas, decides what to do, and tells us to do it. There is a tremendous value placed upon both the people and organizations with money and the money itself. We need to enlarge our thinking to place a greater value on brain power of each of us. We need to value more the individual efforts of smaller organizations working together. We have non-profit organizations that are jockeying for control, growing or sustaining their own fiefdoms. They are spending their energies and monies on protecting themselves rather than furthering their missions.

We need to listen to the wonderful ideas that are being put forward. Then we need to align the ideas in focused initiatives. Empowering all to work together behind these initiatives creates the ability to move forward with lower cost and greater speed. Building trust in getting initiatives done builds sustainability. Sustainability builds a stronger economy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Investments in Our Children

"The way a society cares for its children
predicts the future of that society."

"Education and abundance are privileges that lead to responsibility. Global Justice is the responsibility of educated professionals and the wealthy people. We must take action."

Fr. Masalakulangwa Mabula 14 June 2006

It is the responsibilty of all of us to share our knowledge with future generations. We also need to share our best practices in business as well as in life. Those with any kind of wealth need to invest it to grow our communities rather than bury it in the sand. Having money and/or knowledge creates responsibilities which we must continue to meet.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Its Time For Commitment

I and others from I-Open met today with someone in Cleveland who has worked with developing entrepreneurs in Europe and is now trying to develop some innovative businesses here in Northeast Ohio. It works elsewhere so why can’t it work here? The comment I heard is that Cuyahoga County is so siloed and set in its 1st curve economy ways that it is unlikely anytime soon that Cleveland will move forward. Many are close to giving up hope and a number of businesses, organizations, and individuals already have. My brother has said to me that no community is guaranteed the right to survive. It is up to its residents to make a commitment to work together and then act on that commitment.

We all need to stop making the same strategic plan year after year and decade after decade, stop having conversations about what would be wonderful if somebody else did it, and stop whining. We need to start working together, supporting each other, and sharing best practices. We need to learn to do strategic thinking and doing rather than strategic planning. We need to treat each other and each others ideas with respect. Maybe even implement the old golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” rather than the current Cleveland golden rule, “He who has the gold, rules.”

The Morrison brothers have always said that the revolution will come from the mountains. It will come from the outlying areas, whether it be Akron, Youngstown, Mayfield, or Berea. Cleveland civic leaders and all who interact in the civic space need to learn and practice new behaviors. I will continue to teach new behaviors in the civic space, to encourage entrepreneurs to stop waiting for someone to give them permission, and to help build collaborative networks and behaviors.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New Approaches to Economic Development

We need to cultivate practices that create open conversations leading to new levels of collaborative behavior. The last two days I participated in an economic development program at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. The conference was put on by the Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open). The conference was principally held to delve into new approaches in regional innovation.

What was so exciting was the breadth of experiences, positions, backgrounds of the twenty-four who elected to participate. There were people from Cleveland; Jefferson City, Missouri; Wayne County; all over Cuyahoga County; Nashville, Tennessee; and Indianapolis, Indiana. There were people who work for the City of Cleveland, TVA, Cuyahoga County, various non-profit organizations, the Cleveland Institute of Art, Case Western Reserve University, Myers University, the Cuyahoga County Library.

There were people who are economic development directors, librarians, students, unemployed, non-profit administrators, small farm supporters, network builders, community development leaders, car restorers, technology directors, bio-fuels engineers, agricultural innovators. There were people in suits, people in jeans, and people in skirts.

We got involved in the discussion of first curve versus second curve innovation strategies, quality connected places, building connected networks, building innovation networks, growing regional economies, appreciative networks, authentic engagement, network weaving, collaborative projects.
All of these people came to the table and participated in open conversations building trust, finding common ground, and building new collaborative networks. We developed new ways to help focus our actions leading to bring innovation to our communities.

Overall, we looked at ways and committed ourselves to teach and encourage new behaviors in regional innovation and economic growth. There will be another conference in June at Baldwin-Wallace and I hope that more will be there because the depth of the experience depends upon the participation, stories, and comments of those at the table.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Needing New Behaviors

I fully agree with Guhan Venkatu who is an economic analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, that the reasons for Cleveland’s woes are not what are commonly cited. Guhan Venkatu presented an economic commentary for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland titled “Cleveland (on the) Rocks,” February 2006; posted March 2006 which may be read here. However, the reasons put forward by Venkatu fail to take into account what I feel may be the most major factor in Cleveland’s failure to thrive. Cited, but taking a minor position, are lack of qualified workers, the quality of life, access to transportation or distribution networks, or regional regulation and tax policies. Many of those problems may also be more perceived than actual.

Cleveland has long had a problem with the behavior of its leaders in relationship to each other and to new entrepreneurs. The region needs to build an aura of trust and collaboration. The collaboration needs to be that which encourages individual identity without the fear engendered by the thought of consolidation.

Cleveland leaders need to encourage all levels of entrepreneurship from concept, startup, mid-market, and maturity. Open communication also needs to take place. We need to have strategic thinking that leads to strategic doing rather than strategic planning. Time and again over the last several decades consultants have come in issuing strategic plans over eighteen month periods, saying the same thing. The region holds feel good events with little or no focus on how and where we move forward. We finance the flash that brings stars to the eyes but which soon fades. We look for the short term gain, especially for real estate developers and the construction industry which fail to provide for sustainable economic development.

We all need to work with our schools, colleges, universities, and libraries to teach new models of behavior, treating each other in ways that build mutual respect and trust. We need to re-envision our agendas into categories that are less narrowing: envision brainpower versus education, collaborative networks versus hierarchies, wealth creation versus command and control.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Social Network Analysis

The picture here is that of a network map utilizing the software of Valdis Krebs. (see Valdis is someone with whom I collaborate in my work in Northeast Ohio. The software helps visualize collaboration within a cluster of individuals and organizations and creates a method of analyzing changes and growth in relationships.

We are using the software to show the impact of work in regional economic development utilizing open source economic development methods developed and implemented by Ed Morrison, Betsey Merkel, Susan Altshuler, myself and I-Open partners.
(see I-Open) The nodes at the center of clusters represent people who have attended civic forums regarding developing a innovation network in Midtown Cleveland. Those attending have been asked to submit the names of those with whom they have shared ideas, mentored, or received advice.

There are some people who have attended who are also on the submitted lists and there are some people who are on several submitters' lists.

Monday, February 06, 2006

People Make the Space

I work in a large room with two doors and no windows. One door opens onto a hallway with the opposite wall all windows so that by opening our door I see outside and can determine whether it is day or night. There are three large support columns in the office which is about fifty feet by thirty feet. We have three desks and three tables, a mixture of chairs, old office furniture stored by a business down the hall, and until recently a collection of mis-matched office partitions leaning against one wall. All of the items of furniture are well used loaners from the building and the staff.

The room is painted white with much fluorescent lighting. It used to be the library for the Regional Sewer District. One might think that such a space would be very confining, but I have not yet mentioned what is also in this space. This space is filled with innovative minds that are dedicated to building the economy in the region. These are people who are open and honest and live by building trusting relationships with and between others. There are multiple initiatives posted on the wall on constantly changing working papers.

Every day that I am there, there are people sticking their heads in to say hello, comment on what they or their organizations are thinking and doing. They want to discuss their ideas, our ideas, or someone else's ideas. Often they grab a cup of coffee and a cookie or bagel. Our office and forums seem to run on cookies and coffee.

There are days there is so much interesting conversation andstrategicc doing that it is hard for me to get done those tasks which I had planned for myself. All of the activity makes the day challenging as well as fun and rewarding.

And, as often is the case, it is the people that make the space. Come be part of it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Open Source Networking

We all utilize in our verbal communications words and phrases that have multiple meanings, are unclear, or have been hijacked to have specific but inappropriate meanings. These words are often referred to as “code words”. In our communications we need to be careful not to abuse language in creating code words or to use phrases that will be misinterpreted.

One such word that has come into such a code realm is networking. When we use the word networking, do we mean building a collaborative network? Do we mean introducing person A to person B? Do we mean suggesting that person A contact person B? Do we mean building our own social network?

As so many have abused the concept, for many networking has become a negative practice. What does networking really mean? If it can be used both to describe using contacts to achieve a personal ends as well as to describe collaborative behavior, then we need to make clear each time we use the word what it means. Either that or not use the word but use a word or phrase which will more appropriately describe what is intended.

What we say may clearly mean one thing to a certain group of people but something else entirely to another. Such a phrase is Open Source. Those in the information technology field understand it fairly well, economic development professionals in another way, and the general public not at all. The general public may try to interpret it looking at the words open and source but what comes out is not what is meant.

The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment

On this day of celebration of Martin Luther King, I quote from the sermon given by The Reverend Martin Luther King at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights on May 14, 1963 from the pulpit to an overflowing church. In it he asks all of us to be maladjusted in terms of not accepting the bigotry of religion and society. The same applies to the acceptance of the old way of behaving in the economic arena: needing approval from the powerful, accepting short term gains as the ends, dealing with each other in uncollaborative and unethical ways.

There are many technical words in every academic discipline which become stereotyped and cliché. I want to mention one of these words. It is the word maladjustment. It is a great technical word in modern psychology, which has become a ringing cry. It is the product, or the modern child, of psychology.

We all want to live the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic personalities, but I must be honest with you by saying that there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted, and to which I call all men of good will to be maladjusted until the good society is realized.I must confess that I will never adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I will never become adjusted to religious bigotry. I will never adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few. I will never become adjusted to the madness of militarism: the self-defeating effects of physical violence. In a day when Sputniks and Explorers are dashing through outer space, guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death throughout the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. There is no longer a choice between violence and non-violence. It is either non-violence or non-existence. The alternative to disarmament, the alternative to suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and working toward disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation. I never intend to adjust to the madness of militarism.

It may well be the greatest need of the hour, the greatest need of our world, to have more maladjustment. This is why I am calling for the immediate formation of a new organization, “The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.” There is a need for men and women to be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos. In his day, in the midst of injustices, his proud words echo across the centuries, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” There is a need for men and women today to be as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who had the vision to see that this nation could not exist half-slave and half-free. There is a need for us to be as maladjusted as Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery cried with words rising to cosmic proportions, “All men are created equal.” There is a need for men to be as maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth, who could stand amid the men and women of his day, amid the intricacies of the formidable military machinery of the Roman Empire, to say, “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword,” and cry out, “Love your enemies; bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.”

Through such maladjustment, we will be able to emerge from the darkened midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

With this faith, we will be able to go on to carve a tower of hope on the mountain of despair and bring into being that great dream and create right here in America a nation where all men will live together in brotherhood and where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.

Read the whole sermon here.