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18
Tue, Sep

Social Innovations Tidbits

Leadership
Typography

Each quarter, this section of the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal brings you a selection of recent news reports and other publications featuring topics and trends related to social innovation, disruptive innovation, and social entrepreneurship. These “tidbits” offer brief summaries of stories and articles from around the country and the world, and fall under themes such as social media, technology, leadership, “what works,” evolving trends, philanthropy, and others. If you come across something you think is worth highlighting here, please send it to Caroline Ridgway at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Leadership

Monk, Architect, Diplomat: Three Types of Leadership Are Needed to Build a Successful Organization

(Mark Albion, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2010, 21-22,
http://www.ssireview.org/images/ads/2010FA_FirstPerson_Albion.pdf).

One of the biggest obstacles facing any small social entrepreneurship organization is scaling. Often, it is presumed that inability to scale is a function of inadequate financing. This author, on the other hand, has found that insufficient leadership skills are often the culprit, and proposes that leaders adopt the mindset of the monk, the architect, and the diplomat to successfully achieve scale. A leader’s primary role as a monk “is to turn the organization’s mission and values into practice.” Monks are mindful that their words and actions have a ripple effect throughout the organization, and that their personal values are replicated in practice. They commit to leading mindfully, with respect for co-workers. Architects help to build the cultural infrastructure of a company, relinquishing control as appropriate but remaining involved. They prioritize internal growth and strength. Finally, diplomats collaborate, even with supposed competitors. They are skilled at forging nontraditional partnerships that are still relevant to the organization’s central mission.

Four Mistakes Leaders Keep Making

(Robert H. Schaffer, Harvard Business Review, September 2010, 86-91,
http://hbr.org/2010/09/four-mistakes-leaders-keep-making/ar/1).

The author identifies four common behavioral “traps” that prevent effective leadership. The traps are “difficult to recognize because they are almost always mechanisms for avoiding anxiety. They serve to protect egos and prevent discomfort.” The general theme within each identified problem is the inability or unwillingness to demand performance from within an organization. Rather than set only general expectations, be specific in what is required, when it needs to be done, and who will be accountable. Rather than retain expensive outside consultants to supply a better way of doing things, explore internal processes for areas of enhancement or streamlining. Do the best with the resources you have before looking elsewhere for assistance. Demand that management up and down the chain of command keep an eye on the bigger prize of the organization’s central mission, and avoid getting too singularly caught up in their immediate sphere of influence. Put an end to endless cycles of preparing to do a task and require that the task be done. It is a challenge to impose operational parameters such as these because doing so sets up everyone—the leader included—for failure if the parameters are not met. But the benefit of establishing such procedures is vastly improved internal efficiency and productivity.

Innovative Partnerships

A New Alliance for Global Change

(Bill Drayton and Valeria Budinich, Harvard Business Review, September 2010, 56-64,
http://hbr.org/2010/09/a-new-alliance-for-global-change/ar/1).

The authors of this article open by pointing out, “We are witnessing a sea change in the way society’s problems are solved, work is performed, and businesses grow.” They maintain that the degree of collaboration between the “citizen sector” and the private sector is at an all-time high and only growing in strength and vitality. Effective partnerships between these two sectors have vast potential to create both financial and social value. “Hybrid value chains” effectively leverage the strengths of both partners: the scaling and operational expertise of the private sector corporation and the cost-efficiency, social ties, and cultural savvy brought by public sector players. To build a functioning and successful hybrid value chain, the authors propose keeping the following tenets in mind. Having identified a business model, take a deep conceptual dive into how that business operates. Determine who the target customers or clients are, what they want, how that can be delivered, and where the value is for all parties. Think about expanding the business model to new markets, reimagining what constitutes value. Approach the pricing and financial modeling innovatively. Think carefully about how organizational resources are allocated to the project and identify the best leadership. And, finally, understand that failure will happen, and strike the balance between permitting and even expecting that while striving for and ultimately also expecting success.

Education

How to Close the Achievement Gap

(Mona Mourshad and Fenton Whelan, Newsweek, August 16, 2010,
http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/16/secrets-of-the-world-s-best-school-systems.html).

A child’s chances of achieving measurable success in life are contingent, to a startling degree, on having received a good education during the formative years. The authors cite alarming statistics. By the age of 3, children whose parents are professionals are outpacing their peers from poorer families by a year, with a vocabulary double the size and IQ scores 40 points higher. That disparity increases to 3 years by age 10. The authors point out several practices that have proven to be successful in addressing achievement gaps globally: Ensure adequate pre-schooling, known to be one of the most effective interventions possible; keep children in school longer through extended school days or years; make teacher preparation a central priority, giving kids the best possible chance at getting high-quality instruction at the classroom level; and create mechanisms to support students individually by providing tutoring and other one-on-one support. Each of these methods, either alone or in concert, has been demonstrated to be effective in equalizing education among student populations from disparate backgrounds.

Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom

(Sara Corbett, The New York Times Magazine, September 15, 2010,
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/magazine/19video-t.html?ref=magazine).

For any student who ever complained that school was boring, one school in New York, Quest to Learn, offers a potential solution. In this school, most of the learning is done in the context of playing, studying, and designing games, and much of that happens digitally. The pedagogy of Quest to Learn pertains to the notion that modern students need a modern curriculum to succeed in a modern world. Children’s technological fluency is typically miles ahead of their teachers’ by the time they reach school age, and the world around us is showing no immediate signs of becoming any less reliant on technology, so why not incorporate that into how students are taught in school? Also apparent in the daily operations of Quest to Learn is the belief that game-playing is a totally valid modality for learning; it teaches complex spatial skills, decision-making, and prioritization, and, particularly in the case of multi-player games, collaborative capacity. Game design calls on a complex set of skills including math, writing, art, computer programming, and others. It is too soon to know if Quest to Learn’s methods will reap measurable benefits, but so far test scores are comparable with traditional school students’ scores. The model itself is still evolving, but given the ubiquity of technology in our world it seems a worthy experiment.

What Works

Freeing the Social Entrepreneur

(Chantal Laurie Below and Kimberly Dasher Tripp, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2010, 36-41,
http://www.ssireview.org/images/articles/2010FA_Features_Below_Tripp_NoPic.pdf).

It is not uncommon for small and medium-sized nonprofits to revolve directly around one key leader, in many instances a person who has been involved with the organization from some of its earliest days. However, to grow effectively and continue to evolve and be sustained in their missions, nonprofits must actively construct teams of leaders who possess particular skills and characteristics. The authors of this article identify these people as the evangelist (“the person who is deeply passionate about the organization’s mission and convinces others to help fulfill it”), the scaling partner (“the organization’s pragmatist, someone who can think strategically and make the evangelist’s vision a reality”), the connector (“to fill in the gaps left by the entrepreneur as he focuses on being the evangelist”), the program strategist (“an expert in that particular field and whose role is to ensure that the programs achieve the desired outcomes”), and the realist (“the person who keeps the organization grounded in financial reality”). Multiple of these roles may be filled by one person if appropriate, and they are not, of course, the only key players on the team, but the functions of each are critical for an organization to achieve success and longevity.

Innovation and Commercialization, 2010: McKinsey Global Survey Results

(McKinsey Quarterly, August 2010, 
https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/PDFDownload.aspx?ar=2662
).

According to an online survey from the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., a full 84 percent of executives believe that innovation is “extremely or very important to their companies’ growth strategy.” However, it does not appear that these executives have done much to shake up their strategies for achieving innovation since the onset of the recession, even though, admittedly, their pre-recession strategies weren’t overwhelmingly successful. Just as most people consider themselves to be better-than-average drivers, 55 percent of survey respondents declare that their companies are superior innovators relative to their counterparts. On the other hand, responding executives are much less confident in the specifics of their strategies to drive innovation. Leaders who have set concrete priorities and a strong organizational infrastructure devoted to innovation are more likely to have seen success. It is also helpful to take steps to facilitate good cross-communication and -functionality among the various facets of an organization involved in the soup-to-nuts process of innovation, including research and development departments and information technology.

Six Avoidable M&A Mistakes

(Russ Banham, CEO Magazine, September/October 2010, 34-39, 
http://www.chiefexecutive.net/ME2/Audiences/dirmod.asp?
sid=&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%
3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&
tier=4&id=CB49804242D146E4BAF861846808A8A6&AudID=
F242408EE36A4B18AABCEB1289960A07
).

With the business of conducting mergers and acquisitions seemingly getting back into the swing of things after a couple years of relative dormancy, here are a number of strategies to keep in mind in considering whether this sort of venture might bring more benefit than harm. First, make sure to stay objective; getting swept up in the excitement or perceived benefit of a merger may impede realistic assessment of the actual benefit likely to accrue to the parties. Second, due diligence that is given short attention will ultimately not do anyone good. Make sure to conduct the appropriate analyses, and do so in depth. The third and fourth recommendations both pertain to the culture and workforce of the entities proposing to join. The author advises taking care to treat the staff of the acquired organization with respect, and engaging staff in how differing cultures might meld. This is true for the customers or clients of the merged company as well as the staff. Fifth, be realistic about the finances of the deal and whether the cost of the transaction is appropriate or worth it down the road when translated into recouped benefit, financial or otherwise. Finally, it is critical to consider where the leadership of the target company or organization will fit in the combined entity and how leadership transitions will be handled.