Obstacles to Success

In my last post, I introduced the concept “strategic community investment” as a phrase for a company’s deliberate, planned engagement with a community cause or causes. The concept is the central theme of a new book I’ve written, Think Lobal, Act Glocal.

The case argued in the book is that there are powerful economic benefits to a company that is engaged in strategic community investment right from the start.

However, there are two main obstacles to engagement, especially in the early history of a company:

1.  Perception – frequently, the founders, investors, and managers of a company believe that strategic community investment is too expensive. However, the data – richly illustrated with case after case of high-performing investments – is mounting that shows otherwise.

Therefore, the misperception about the expense (and the associated powerful benefits) is perpetuated due to:

(a) the lack of education and understanding, on management’s part, or

(b) a resistance to change, i.e., a lack of will to do things differently and engage at the beginning, versus some point “down the road.”

2.  Execution – too often, once management and staff “buy in” to a strategic community investment, they unintentionally miss the opportunity to optimize it.

This missed opportunity is frequently due to weak links between the company and its investment partners, i.e., the civic institutions and community non-profits.

The source of these weak links is a poorly executed match between the core values and the value proposition of the company’s products & services, and those of its partner(s).

My hope is that the book, with each new edition, and the Facebook page, with each new case study or best practice, provide the qualitative and quantitative data that help clear these obstacles away.

If you are a company principal in Austin, please join us at a launch reception at the Austin Museum of Art on Tuesday, September 14, to mix and mingle with other company founders who can attest to how essential strategic community investment was to their success, from the very early days.

Strategic Community Investment

We’re hosting a party in two weeks and we want you to join us! The party is actually a community reception at the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA), in downtown Austin, with dual objectives.

One objective is to celebrate the opening of a new exhibit at the museum this month, by celebrated mixed media American artist, Romare Bearden. (Related footnote: I’m proud and humbled to say that I’ve been newly elected to AMOA’s board of trustees…all the more reason to want to show off the Museum’s collection and exhibits!)

The other objective is to celebrate the launch of a new book I’m working on. Come to the reception and – in addition to viewing the new exhibit while enjoying food & drink – you’ll also get a first edition copy of the book.  Register on the Eventbrite page: http://amoa-reception.eventbrite.com/

The book is my first in nearly 15 years. I’ve authored, edited, and produced eight others – all on information technology and management. And while this new book certainly incorporates technology trends and ideas, the central theme of the book is different.

Instead of technology, the central theme for this book is “strategic community investment.” Strategic community investment is the phrase I’m using to represent a company’s deliberate, planned engagement with a community cause or causes.

The mission of the book is to present the case that a culture of strategic community investment produces powerful economic benefits to company from the very start.

To illustrate with a figure, the book presents the case that allocating some portion of your spend to reach a percentage of customers and key stakeholders through community-appropriate causes – illustrated by the circle and arrows in the middle – produces results that are as good or better than the results achieved without.

The inspiration for the book, which in full disclosure is presently more of a book-length essay at 64 pages (I’ve taken to calling it a primer or decision-making guide), comes from my combined experience in high-growth, primarily technology product & service ventures and in non-profit management and foundation board work.

I’ll be posting more about “strategic community investment” in the coming days and weeks. As always, let me know your thoughts.

Museums and Bombs

Ok, hang with me here, because I’m going to toss a jarring and circuitous route to the theme of this post in a couple of quick paragraphs, so here goes…

We just got back from vacation last weekend, during which we took a big loop from through northern and southern New Mexico and Arizona. Our key stops along the way were Lubbock (home of best friend since 7th grade), Santa Fe, Sedona, Tucson, and Carlsbad (home of the awesome Caverns).

In Santa Fe, we took a quick afternoon trip to Los Alamos, which we had never done, and shuffled along the nearly empty main drag and Hill campus to soak in the vibe. While there, we spent about 90 minutes (which is about one-tenth of the time one could easily spend, just in reading time alone!) at the Bradbury Science Museum.

Sci-fi fan-boy that I am, I had assumed that the Museum was named after legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man, R is for Rocket, etc.). I was wrong. Turns out, the Museum is named after Los Alamos National Lab’s second director, Norris E. Bradbury.

Bradbury was the Lab’s director the same year that the atomic weapons – the primary deliverables of the Manhattan Project, which was the genesis of the Los Alamos Lab – were dropped on Japan. Robert Oppenheimer was the civilian leader of that project and today – August 6, 1945 – marks the 65th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, which triggered the immediate surrender of Japan and the end of WWII.

Here are a couple of photos I took of scale replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man at the Bradbury Museum.

A day later, we were at the South rim of the Grand Canyon, near sunset, having dinner and musing on the grandeur that nature hath wrought. And, while the Canyon – truly one of the great natural wonders of the world – was created from millions of years of erosion, it got me to thinking about the “dark side” of nature’s power as well.

Such a “dark side” is indeed present when you browse the history of the world’s great explosive events, one viewing of which you can sample from my late-night guilty pleasure, the VLOGbrother’s video blog on YouTube. In this particular post, Hank (the younger brother) narrates a top 10 list of explosions.

What’s fascinating is that 3rd place and 1st place explosions (not counting scientific theories about the comet-initiated origins of the moon and extinction of dinosaurs) are natural explosions.

So, the greatest destructive force is natural, not human. One is destined, one is not. Or is it?

And that, my Silicon Hills friends, gets you to the end of this little preamble and the theme of this post, which is the hope of inspiring you to visit the Austin Museum of Art to view the Chris Jordan show sometime in the next ten days while you still have a chance.

(For everyone outside of Austin, you can view Jordan’s works online or perhaps in your local museum.)

In the current AMOA show, Jordan’s work frequently juxtaposes the man-made and the natural to evoke questions that ultimately lead to dialog about our roles as global citizens.

It’s a terrific example, I might add, illustrating one of the core values that I appreciate the most about the City of Austin’s anchor museum: a curatorial priority to promote questions and generate dialog.

A museum is more than a place to view the beautiful, the spectacular, or the rare “thing.” It is, in many ways, the least expensive and most easily accessible way for every citizen in a community to have a face-to-face experience with new ideas, questioning traditions and considering possibilities – the way to “knock you for a loop,” as mom would say.

And, in the age in which we live, where one can deliberately or accidentally, surround oneself through media and communications with a monolithic point-of-view – be it about politics, science, religion…you name it – I know that, for me, such a regular knock on the side of the head is an essential habit for my mental health and creativity.

So, do yourself a favor: visit AMOA and the Chris Jordan exhibit. Or, if you can’t get there by August 15, visit the Museum when you can – it may not beat a trip to the rim of the Grand Canyon, but it’s certainly an hour-long vacation for the soul.