They actually said it. The F-word. Failure. In fact, Harvard Business Review Magazine dedicated an entire issue to understanding failure, learning from it and recovering from it (April 2011). In this post, I want to share three articles that I enjoyed from the issue, and also provide a critique on how the issues needed to go further to make the concepts into useful tools for managers.
Blockbuster’s dramatic rise and fall in the movie rental industry is a great read (How I did it. Blockbuster’s Former CEO On Sparring with an Activist Shareholder, Pg 39). The power struggle between former CEO John Antioco and Shareholder Carl Icahn provides the business community with a rare glimpse into the complexity of modern management; how to make sense in a sea of technological change; how to manage strong personalities for positive outcomes; how to keep customers happy; how to accurately interpret data for good decision-making.
Another article, Why leaders don’t learn from Success by Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano outlines a Simple Model of Learning (Pg. 72). They state “learning is all about understanding why things happen and why some decisions lead to specific outcomes.” Gino and Pisano give readers a road map for five ways to learn. Collectively, these methods can, if used properly, aid managers to “investigate the causes of the good and the bad performance.”
The final article of interest is Failing By Design by Rita Gunther McGrath (pg 77). She explores “that what people think of as intuition, is at its heart, a highly developed pattern recognition.” McGrath closes the article by outlining seven principles she has identified as putting intelligent failure to work.
Here is our analysis of the HBR Issue from a Nonprofit Management perspective: The Failure issue is good, but really needs an even-keeled approach for articulating what is working in the workplace, what is not, and how to prioritize the new ideas that bubble to the top.
At Framework, our management lens is to approach everything we do - big and small - by asking “if something is working, how do we amplify it? If something is becoming a challenge, how do we reduce it? And if a new idea presents itself, how do we evaluate that idea against all the other competing priorities?” This approach applies to all administrative planning and reporting (e.g. internal management) and program delivery (e.g. external relations and networks)
As you have read in other posts, we also live by the motto to “create information once, distribute it widely and accessible in multiple places.” When we combine the management lens with our sharing motto and boil it all down, our newest work is left in the pot: Sharesies. At the core of Sharesies is our goal to make faster, more informed course corrections and also to share less, more useful, data about our game plan and program results.
In conclusion, a focus on failure is a good start to supporting new approaches to good decision making. However, the pendulum has swung way too far. We hope leaders in the non-profit community are not going to get sucked into the drama of the F word. A more balanced, even-keeled approach is needed.
As it is a short work week, I didn’t mind having a Monday after work beer with Assaf and Norm from Venture Deli today (normally it would have been a peppermint tea). After a quick ‘cheers’ we got down to what is up at Framework and Venture Deli.
The last time we met was about a month ago at the YSEC re:Think 2011 Conference. At the conference, I gave a demo on Sharesies. It was one of the first times that we officially shared our working protThis is our roll out of “create information once, distribute it widely, accessible in multiple places” motto. In the month that has passed, we have been able to hit the accelerator as proof about our Sharing-By-Default hypothesis makes for a more agile organization.
In just under 10 business days and under $900, we did the following:
1. Register Sharesies.org (2 minutes and $150)
2. Created a logo (2 working days and $250)
3. Launch a portal website (1 day; no cost via Weebly Pro account)
4. Prepared a Sharesies section on Frameworkorg.org website (10 minutes)
5. Added relevant Sharesies content to our Framework website (a week)
6. Schedule and complete 5 meetings with organizations interested in sharing (one week)
7. Prepared an illustration how certain ICT tools make it easy to Share (2 hours)
8. Created coffee mugs and mouse pads (in a weekend and $500)
9. Adding Sharing into our management document/scorecard (10 seconds)
The Sharesies content is only 80% baked. However, we are able to get the ideas out there quick. The quicker this is, the faster we can get feedback from our trusted advisers/colleagues. It is way cheaper for us to test and prototype ideas. This incremental approach is also fast as it is fun. And we are going to apply it to EVERYTHING we do. In the long run, this will make our core program the Timeraiser even more solid as a way to engage people in a new and refreshing way.
By Kenneth Yeung, U of T Student
To recap: I am a fourth year Urban Studies student at the University of Toronto and I am currently taking INI 437, a fourth year internship/ seminar course. During reading week, I, along with 10 of my classmates and the instructor, travelled to New York City for one of our class field trips. From the tour at the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side to a lecture at the Skyscraper Museum, this ‘learning outside the classroom experience’ has given me a valuable opportunity to learn more about New York City.
The Harlem walking tour was one of the most memorable group activities during my time in New York City. The tour was led by Neal, a native Harlemite who spoke of culture and historical development of Harlem. During the tour, Neal introduced us to one particular teenager on the street, who he calls his nephew. Neal said that teenagers like his nephew in Harlem are equally respectable because many of these teenagers are often misrepresented by the media based on their fashion. Besides the great stories told, I am impressed by Neal’s engagement with his community. Neal emphasized the importance of social media and the pivotal role social media has towards the community and civic participation. For instance, Neal recognizes that Harlem is currently experiencing a period of gentrification and he advocates the use of social media, like Facebook and blogs, among youths to raise concerns over gentrification in order to protect the cultural heritage of Harlem.
I finally realized that the use of social media is a global social phenomenon. From the uprising in Egypt to the use of social media in Harlem, I see a connection to my internship project. In particular, a significant part of my internship involves a long-term project whose goal is to create a way for Framework to visualizes emerging causes and trends that helps Canadians connect to causes they care about. The collection will consist of a series of open interactive maps that can be easily shared with other users. By creating open data, it is easier for Framework to ‘bring people to causes and causes to people’.
By Kenneth Yeung, U of T Student
If you recall from a few months back, I had concluded that Google Maps was the best option for creating mobile and interactive maps for my long-term mapping project as an intern at Framework. However, after creating several sample maps, we re-evaluated its capabilities as we realized that Google Maps cannot visualize different layers on a single base map; hence my project was put on hold until we found a more robust software.
Click here to view on of my early maps.
After a little more market research, we were able to find an alternative mapping software named Rhiza Labs to carry out my project. The Rhiza Insight GIS mapping software enable users, like myself, with no prior GIS experience, to collect data and create maps to tell a story. For my project, I am using Calgary’s 2010 Vital Signs data and information set as a template to visualize some of the emerging trends and causes happening in the city. In particular, the Calgary Vital Signs shows measures of quality of life in 12 key issue areas such as food, and environment. My task is to visualize these key issue areas to see emerging trends in the city. For example, I’ve collected the locations of all the community gardens in Calgary to show the growth of local food gardens in different communities.
There are four main reasons why we decided to use Rhiza Insight to carry out my project. First, Rhiza Insight enables users to map out data quickly. The multiple layers over a single base map create an effective visualization capacity for presentations. Second, it is easy to import data from spreadsheets, shape files and other file formats. Third, this mapping software allows users to customize their maps in order to make them more visually appealing. Last but not least, the finished maps can be previewed using the Google Earth application, which creates the opportunity to create an engaging presentation for the audiences. Hopefully my Calgary Vital Signs presentation will be shown at the 6th Calgary Timeraiser in June.
Today at the Framework office, we had a technology breakthrough. We’ve been talking a lot about sharing information widely amongst non-profits and funders, and we have invested significant resources to developing a prototype for what open and transparent sharing in a non-profit organization could look like. Sharesies is a new way to think about information management. It is the idea that your organization’s data; budget, invoices, board governance, logos and media (etc) can be widely accessible to key stakeholders and like-minded organizations. Share by default.
A key component of the Sharesies model is the idea of sharing quality information that is useful to others. It’s not just sharing for sharing's sake. Our breakthrough today has to do with our newly published Social Enterprise Spending report. Working in the non-profit sector, we need to do better with acting on the social messages we promote. That means supporting Social Enterprises wherever possible; printing, catering, and for Timeraiser, in our artwork collection. Using the Sharesies method, we now have very clearly and simply, published who our suppliers are, how much money we’ve invested for 2010/2011, and how the organization's we support can be contacted.
The power of this type of sharing is magical for us. In 2010, 46% of our overall printing costs went to Social Enterprise printing shops such as Eva’s Phoenix Print Shop. It is our hope that as we make it easy to find these suppliers and publish accurate, real-time costs, that we will align some serious purchasing power with like-minded organizations. If every non-profit organization who connects with Framework/Timeraiser committed to just 5% Social Enterprise spending for 2011, think of the impact across the country. The Social Enterprise Spending report is a living breathing example of the triple bottom line. This report demonstrates the power of Sharesies; make information easily accessible, easy to share, and easy to recreate. Do you know of other Social Enterprises we should be supporting? Let us know, or even better, publish it widely for others to learn from.