I guess these two got it half right

When you’re trying to move from the old formal ways of the past, it can be tough to jump all the way to Idea Friendly in one big leap. I get that. Just don’t stop halfway there.

I saw a couple of examples that I thought you’d like, not because they’re wonderful, but because they’re about half right. 

The first was from an economic development expert. I actually took a EcoDev 101 class from him a couple of decades ago, so I was pleased to see him recently talking about collaboration and getting away from the old structures of the past. But then he posted a vision of what’s next. And I wasn’t so pleased. Here’s the new Collaboration Platform: 

(If you know this guy, and some of you probably do, don’t go tell him I was being mean. I’m not trying to be mean.)

But this isn’t really the future. It’s about halfway there. It’s past the old formal structure of community organizations, but replacing it with a new one, just a different shape, still “designed and guided by universities.” It’s still a select few influential people who will be deciding for everyone else. 

The real future is individuals. Forget building the structure that comes next. Focus on unleashing the ability of your people to do what’s next. 

The second example was in a story about a guy who got excited about some of the more modern ideas in urban design, so he wanted to create a local group. Which he did, even attracting a dozen new people for the very first meeting. He said they kept coming back month after month, but they wanted to DO something. (Wait. Did he really have month after month of meetings with all talking, but no action?) Then they voted to only pick two things to work on together. They did start partnering with other local organizations, so bonus points for Building Connections. Now he’s busy setting up the formal organization stuff, and I’m still wondering about when we get around to unleashing the individuals. 

(If you know this guy, don’t go telling him either. I’m really not trying to be mean, but to help us all see the big leap we have to make. In fact, both of these examples are good steps away from the Old Guard, the old way of doing things. It just happens they’ve landed at the New Old Guard status, without getting the whole way to the Idea Friendly future.) 

We’re guilty of this ourselves. You’ve probably heard me tell the story of my colleague Deb and the holiday lights. Her town received a design visit from the big university, complete with a long list of 70+ things they could do. One was to put up holiday lights in the trees downtown. So Deb (Chamber Director at the time) called the city manager and got the utility department to do it. And she said to me, “See? Taking Small Steps! Idea Friendly!” No, I said. It’s not. It’s just the same formal organizations doing the things. Where do the individuals come in? If we let everyone adopt a tree downtown and decorate it themselves, that’s Idea Friendly. If we invite everyone to decorate their buildings downtown or their house, or even put a light in their front window on Thursday, and we hold a walk around and meet your neighbors night, that’s Idea Friendly. 

Deb and I have a specific plan for this. We want to help you get away from the old way, all the way to bringing the individuals in your town into action. We’re sharing that plan in our next webinar, Through the Lens. It will work if your town is 500 people, 5,000 people or 50 people or 50,000 people. And it will get you as far away from the old formal way of doing things as possible, straight into individuals taking action right away to shape a better future for your town. Because that’s Idea Friendly. 

Keep shaping the future of your town,