Three Lessons on Innovation and Adaptability

We’ve always had to innovate to thrive. From developing better clubs for bonking food on the head to wrapping wheels in rubber or miniaturizing on-off switches and building faster, brighter, and more shiny machines upon which we can design faster, brighter, shinier machines.

Now look out at your own organization. Chances are, unless you’re bootstrapping a start-up, it’s becoming increasingly large and complex with formal structures that don’t do a lot to foster innovation or adaptability.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and you’re the solution. Use these three lessons to improve your ability to adapt and innovate.

Journal with Purpose

Take ten minutes at the end of each day to write a reflective journal. Learning is adaptation – and it’s key to fostering a capacity for innovation. A structured reflective journal helps you move from being an actor to being an observer.

Kolb's ELM

Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (ELM) is a great starter format for a learning journal. Follow the 4 steps in the list below to write a journal that will help you improve your ability to adapt and identify opportunities for innovation.

  1. Concrete experience
    • Jot down a few quick sentences about something that happened that day. Write it how it is, not how you feel about it.
  2. Reflective observation
    • Here’s where you write a few sentences about how you felt, what you might have affected your actions or decisions.
  3. Abstract conceptualization
    • OK, so you know what happened, and how you reacted and perceived the situation.Write down one or two things you’ve learned from the experience.
  4. Active experimentation
    • Make a plan for action. Write down one thing you’ll do tomorrow to take an element of what you’ve learned and make it real.

Find out more about ELM

Ten minutes, eight to sixteen short sentences, applicable learning. Repeat at the end of each day and you’ll develop the ability to run this cycle during your day – you’ll be both the actor and observer. Brilliant.


There are initiatives across sectors to foster innovation, but a glance at what makes our federal list of innovative practices brings the sad state of innovation at major employers into sharp relief:

  • The City of Ottawa compensating employees for the time they spend using email, the internet, or text messages when responding to work-related requests outside of regular hours.
  • Oil Sands employers and the GPMC establishing “a joint sub-committee to investigate and discuss the competitiveness of the current general project maintenance, repair, and renovation industry in the province of Alberta.
  • Bombardier Transportation and their union retaining a women’s advocate.

Are any of these all that innovative? Exactly.

Disorganize for innovation by reaching across formal structures within your organization to create partnerships and drive change. Look outside of the system-within-the-system.

Your colleagues and competitors have great ideas that aren’t benefiting your organization because formal structures usually aren’t adept at using ideas from everywhere to inform practice. They’re too top-heavy.

To do this effectively you’ll need a disciplined application of the third lesson:

Build Positive Relationships

Adaptability and innovation are at the heart of positive change, and you can’t lead people across burnt bridges. You’ll need people to help implement all the great opportunities you’re finding through journalling. You’ll expand those insights tenfold through conversations with people outside of your office, unit, department, division, and organization.

This is true whether you’re at the top, bottom, or middle of an organization. Your colleagues and competitors at all have valuable information. Our world is too complex to think we can lead, adapt, or innovate alone.

Find friends, colleagues, and competitors all have skills and knowledge that compliment your own. Build your network and you build your capacity for adaptability and innovation.

Have other ideas on what makes a good journal or how to bend a formal org-chart to your will? Drop us a comment, won’t you?

How to Put Your Strengths to Work

When was the last time you were doing something at work that was so engaging and thought provoking that you totally lost track of time? If the answer is never, there’s a good chance you’re one of the 70 per cent of people that Gallup claim are working in jobs that don’t utilise their talents. And there’s also a good chance that most of the time, work is something that feels unintuitive and frustrating. So why do we do it? Mostly, it’s because we don’t pay enough attention to our strengths at work.

By the time we’re adults there is usually a long list of things in our personal lives that we know we’re just not that great at. I’m very comfortable with the fact that I can’t catch, I draw like a second grader and my cooking is generally on the wrong side of passable.

Instead of spending countless hours practicing and working at correcting these weaknesses, I’ve adapted my life to make them matter less. My friends and family know that throwing me the car keys is a bad idea, I write rather than draw and I have a long history of deals with housemates and partners that involve swapping cooking for cleaning. Because you know what? I’m awesome at cleaning.

/*daves*/ photostream / Flickr Creative Commons

We all do this at home, but for some reason when it comes to our professional lives we’re reluctant to put the emphasis on building our natural talents, and we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to compensate for our weaknesses.

One of the unfortunate side effects of performance-based professional culture is that we’re usually told what we need to work on, rather than what we’re good at. And then we’re shipped off to a course or a seminar or a conference to address our shortcomings and bring our new-found skill-set back to work.

But in reality, this rarely works. The fact is that working outside your natural preferences is draining, and nothing saps your enthusiasm for work more than doing something you’re not good at, or something you hate. As Peter Drucker argued in his excellent essay Managing Oneself, “It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence”.

MarkKoeber’s Photostream / Flickr Creative Commons

So, instead of trying to compensate for our weaknesses, how can we invest more in our natural talents?

1.     Take a deeper look

There are a number of self-assessment tests you can take to get a better idea of where your strengths are, like StrengthsFinder, Strengthscope and Action for Happiness. But an equally effective method for finding your strengths is simply to pay close attention to how you work. What do you look forward to doing most every day? Which tasks or situations keep you fully engaged and are enjoyable enough that you lose track of time? Chances are that’s where your strengths are.

2.     Accept yourself

When I did the StrengthsFinder assessment (twice, just to make sure), my number one strength was competition. After spending most of my life seeing my competitiveness as a weakness that needed to be toned down at work, it was hard to start accepting it as a strength. But the fact is that I work better when I’m competing, and I’ve learnt to compete with the clock, my to do list and my own personal goals, rather than competing with other people. Accepting your talents puts you in a position where you can leverage them.

 3.     Put your strengths to work

Once you know what your strengths are, you can start thinking about how to apply them at work. Make your manager aware of what you enjoy working on – deliberately taking on jobs and projects that are a good fit for your talents will mean better results for you and your workplace. For me, putting my strengths to work meant asking my manager to judge me on my outcomes rather than my process. My process isn’t always pretty, but it gets results.

4.     Notice strengths in others

Help others see where their strengths are, and better still, partner with people who have talents that complement yours. If fostering empathy, fairness and harmony are some of your strengths, partner with an activator or an achiever who enjoys keeping things moving.  Accept that other people are just as individual as you are, and collaborate your way into greatness.

It’s a pretty simple idea when you break it down – work out what you do best and do more of it.  If you do something that you’re good at, not only will you enjoy it, but there’s a good chance you’ll also do it exceptionally well.

Eight Ways to Practice Pragmatic Consensus-Based Decision Making

On the surface, consulting everyone and deciding by consensus seems like a no-brainer, the perfect model for making any and all decisions. Its rationale is that   every decision should reflect an equal amount of input from all parties, interested or otherwise.

For centuries, the importance of individual voices in decision making has been enshrined in Western thought. One of our collective narratives out of this era   is that in a democracy, everybody should have a voice. The problem is the bigger the state/organization/company and the more political parties, legislators and special interests in the mix, the more difficult arriving at a consensus becomes. Seth Godin illustrates this problem in his book Linchpin when he notes that coordination of handshakes gets increasingly complex when you add more people into the mix. While the idea of being heard is very important, it is important to recognize that since most of us are faced with hundreds of decisions every week, many mediated by other people, it is nearly impossible to have the same level of input on each decision.

Despite the complexity of large organizations, like governments or large companies, it is possible for consensus to be reached. In order to foster effective consensus-based decision making, practical logistics have to be exercised. There also needs to be a mechanism for making a final decision to move forward, even though there may be some opposition. Steve Jobs called this “shipping” a project – a project is nothing unless it’s on-time and complete.

I grew up in a church with a consensus-based model, and one thing I noticed was that every issue was always up for discussion, and if someone wanted to re-open an issue and put a halt to implementation, it was easily done. Meanwhile, other churches seemed to have different ways of doing things – there was equal and open   discussion, but once a decision was brought to a vote, they moved on to new business – no re-opening the old decision.   In some ways, this model was preferable because it was more efficient. While both scenarios were “consensus-based”, one was far more efficient than the other.

To enable pragmatic, efficient consensus-based decision making, here are some simple rules to follow:

1. Learn who the stakeholders are and make sure that collectively they each have a voice.

2. Help articulate the major themes for each group.

3. Listen to the values of each group, and what drives them to be there (often this is more meaningful than the issue).

4. Thrash early, not late. Ask Seth Godin if you have questions about this.

5. Focus on common ground.

6. Commit to making a decision by a certain date and then implementing it. If no consensus can be reached, agree to an amicable “no-deal”.

7. Don’t confuse people with problems. Breakthroughs often happen when people get to know each other better.

8. Tell corny jokes like, “A termite walks into a bar and asks, ‘Hey, is the bar tender here?’”

Adapting to a New Food Order

Food. Everyone can relate to food in some way, whether you eat to live, or live to eat. Through our choices around food, we can have significant impact on our environment. Since there are so many ways that food impacts sustainability, there are many ways people can make change.

A Broken System

Let’s face it. Our food system is broken. I could tell you how, but Oxfam sums it pretty well. We cannot continue on this path of destruction, as climate change makes itself more apparent, oil prices continue to rise and our agricultural land continues to be destroyed by both unsustainable farming practices and developed into high rises. People in developed countries cannot deny that much of this destruction is being caused by our society’s insatiable demand for avocados in Canada, strawberries in December and mountains of pre-packaged, highly processed, “convenience” foods. When does it make sense that a package of food amalgamated from ingredients from all over the world, processed in a factory, packaged in plastic, and shipped to the grocery store is cheaper than a head of lettuce bought from a farmer growing across town? Something isn’t working. The economics of our food systems simply are not sustainable.

Leading from Within

As an introverted and often shy person, I sometimes have a hard time identifying with “leadership” . I am not the type to go out there and start my own non-profit, write a book on food or create a blog with thousands of followers. It is difficult for me to see how I can make change about something I am so passionate about, but without the kind of outgoing people skills that push so many others out in front. But I realize that if everyone was that kind of leader, we would have a lot of people talking, but not enough people taking action. The world is full of countless quiet leaders, people out there doing the work, leading by example and making small changes in their communities and neighbourhoods.

Leading by Involvement

Change in the realm of food is happening everywhere. Throughout Vancouver, there are food policy councils and food security networks, engaging in discussion and driving change. Food security collaboratives are working to provide local, affordable and fresh food to neighbourhoods that are otherwise unable to access these things. Pocket markets and community kitchens exist all around the city. They are widespread and yet invisible to those who aren’t paying attention. There are many kinds of food related events going on all the time, promoting food that is organic, local, vegetarian, accessible and sustainable. Organizations like Village Vancouver bring people together over food on a regular basis, and often offer information and workshops on things like cheese making, canning and food production. And it is really easy and oh, so much fun to get your hands dirty on an urban farm or in your own garden plot. I have come to appreciate the simplicity and complexity of growing food, and have gained a solid understanding of everything that goes into the food that I eat, from the dirt that it grows in, the bees that pollinate it, and the effort required to keep it alive until it’s ready to end up on my plate.

Over my last 4 months of food immersion, I continue to learn a great deal, and I share that knowledge through conversation and action. Because it’s food, everyone can relate on some level. It’s not the huge, daunting, and divisive subject of climate change or politics or saving a world that very desperately needs saving. After all it’s all about what we eat. And the way to the heart of a non-environmentalist is through their stomachs.

Photos courtesy of Karly Pinch and Kitsilano Neighbourhood House

Sport and Community Leadership

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC is leading positive change in Vancouver. We predict the club’s ideas, commitments and positive role modeling will soon send ripples throughout the worlds of sport, wellness and community. We look forward to measuring the myriad ways that Vancouver’s newest professional sporting club reaches its potentiality – on the pitch as well as in the community.

As part of their club vision, the Whitecaps are committed to being a significant community asset. For the past year, the club has been championing the Vancouver Street Soccer League through a unique partnership with the DTES community sport association. In addition to frequent ticket giveaways, practices with Whitecaps FC men and women’s teams and the recent nomination of VSSL President Alan Bates as their community MVP, the team has also looked to grow its roots within the youth soccer community. A recent example was their free community clinic at UBC where the Whitecaps invited over 100 students from Hastings Elementary and U-Hill Elementary for a coaching session with Carl Valentine (‘Caps Legend and current Booster), Jay DeMerit (the club’s Captain), and Russell Teibert (one of the club’s Canadian stars).

A new study by Griffith University’s School of Business will explore the relationship between new sporting clubs and the communities they impact by investigating “the benefits gained in terms of the fan base they will stimulate as well as the well-being of the communities they enter” and will aim to “identify ways to maximise both outcomes.” [Editor’s note: please take note of our outstanding quotations and credit-giving, Margaret Wente!].

A study by Up2Us of American professional sports leagues and the philanthropy that they deliver for communities, suggests that “‘team-based philanthropy’ centers around the following five categories: Funding; Signatures and Seats; Free Marketing; Team/Player Involvement; and Use of Space.” The report recommends that professional clubs go beyond providing hand-picked organizations with free tickets, signed merchandise and field space by truly inspiring and investing in their communities, even if it’s for transparently self-serving reasons.

For example, a team might address the challenge of youth health, wellness and fitness by, say, contributing to the construction and management a giant Soccer Training Centre that will provide access to youth in the Lower Mainland (and beyond), but will also provide an incubator for future Whitecaps FC talent. Another example from the report is a recommendation for clubs to not award grants to single community teams or local nonprofits, but to challenge these community-based organizations to develop campaigns or programs as part of a competition, where the winning organization would receive something cool (e.g. taco night with Jay DeMerit!) from the professional team.

In addition to Vancouver Whitecaps FC, here are some randomly-selected North American pro-sports clubs (and one very tall man) that are doing cool things:

What do you think of how sport clubs give and how such engagement helps communities realize their potential?

Lead Like a Pioneer

The Golden Pioneer in Salem, Oregon – Edmund Garman / Flickr

A few weeks ago, Michelle (my lovely wife who is her own, powerful woman) and I took a road trip through Oregon – we travelled down the coast (pirates!), inland through a State Forest (Tillamook!), and then wrapped up our brief trip with some urban adventures in Portland (craft everything!). Michelle and I got a firsthand look at how the philosophy of the state’s early pioneers continues to influence that culture of leadership in Oregon. Through conversations, news, museums, universities, and various other sound bites, I learned about the pioneer culture of Oregon and how such a philosophy still informs and inspires the community to this day.

This article is about leadership – specifically, how to lead like a pioneer. Suffice to say that pioneers get there first, they take risks, and they build things in new places. Sometimes this happens literally (e.g. at the end of the Oregon Trail) and sometimes this happens metaphorically (e.g. Portland is a recycling pioneer, with a program that dates back to the 1970s).

EXAMPLES OF Pioneering in Oregon

Being an actual pioneer. From 1800-1850, pioneers (explorers, settlers, downtrodden immigrants with no space to move in Eastern America) moved West in search of land and opportunity. To call such an endeavour a “massive risk” is a bit of an understatement, as hewing their existence from an unknown land resulted in failure – in the form of turning back, lost savings, or even death – for many settlers. Sure, some of these pioneers have been individually celebrated for their leadership; for the most part, though, these were folks who lead without title and by example.

ahockley / Flickr

Recycling and other sustainable things. When Mrs. Joe H. Rand (a recycling activist before there were really recycling activists) spoke with Oregon Governor Tom McCall in February 1970, her support of Governor McCall’s insistence that bottlers (and other beverage industry executives) use returnable containers absolutely went against common practice in Oregon as well as every other state in the union, which McCall argued wasted 48 billion bottles and cans per year. “Despite…opposition [from beverage companies], the Oregon State Legislature passed the Bottle Bill in July, 1971, becoming a national leader for recycling. Several other states followed with similar laws,” says the Oregon Historical Project.  In the 1970s, while everyone else was clogging dumps with glass and metal beverage containers, folks in Oregon – channelling their pioneer spirit – led change with creative problem solving and passionate activism. This leadership in thought still informs the state’s relationship with cutting-edge (by North American standards, anyway) sustainability practices.

The “hot spot map” from The Portland Plan details what parts of the city are accessible within 20 minutes.

Developing 20 minute neighbourhoods. This is urban planning leadership at its best. The objective of The Portland Plan (see “hot-spot” map) is to allow its citizens to access pretty much everything – food, entertainment, green space, health services, educational resources, the best craft beer you’ve ever had – within 20 minutes of walking or cycling or taking transit (more or less, as this isn’t an exact science). Here’s what the plan says about the above map: “This mapping analysis highlights areas that have relatively good, walkable access to commercial services and amenities. It indicates locations that have concentrations of commercial services that are within relatively short walking distance of homes. Besides taking into account the availability of grocery stores and other commercial services, it takes into account factors that impact pedestrian access, such as sidewalks, street connectivity, and topography.” Pretty great, right? Such a unique focus on urban development is being analysed and adopted by cities all around North America, which tends to happen when communities pioneer innovative, efficient and elegant ideas.

How to Lead Like a Pioneer

There are a number of lessons we can draw from these examples when crafting our own philosophy around leading like a pioneer.

Pioneers, more often than not, get there first (this is to say that many settlers got to Oregon before other would-be-settlers  – there were already a lot of people living in the place by the time white folks showed up). This could mean that you beat competitors to investors or the marketplace with your great idea, or it could mean that you’re the first person to bring an existing idea to your workplace, team or neighbourhood.

Some examples of getting there first include Mark Zuckerberg, Jane Jacobs, and the Khan Academy.

Cliché or not, pioneers are also known for their work ethic – hewing their community (a more dramatic writer might say “their existence”) from the wilderness around them. Consequently, whatever you decide to pioneer needs to embody the kind of work ethic that has become the stuff of legend…and the narrative for The Oregon Trail.

Most importantly, pioneers are risk takers. Think of an idea, strategy, plan, program, innovation, or product that you’ve been itching to launch – are you nervous? Well, try getting nervited (nervous + excited = nervited) about how you will build, test, analyze, and launch your great idea in a way that realizes its potential.

Masthead photo courtesy of zion fiction’s photostream on Flickr

Solve Problems by Crossing the Streams

Solving Problems by Fostering Community and Surfacing Innovation

We work in silos. The boundaries might be fuzzy like a Turner landscape, but community, collaboration, and innovation can suffer as a result. We can improve our ability to work together to surface and solve problems by learning from how we socialize with the help of technology.

Let’s take a step back and examine the way we connect and communicate socially has transformed how we work.

We start by identifying the commonalities across our work and social lives.

Streams and the Multitude of Answers

I’m willing to bet that most of you agree that your job environment is pretty complex. Really, if you work with other humans, and you have an inkling, desire or flat-out goal to advance over the course of your life, you are operating in a complex system. Things are changing all the time. As colleagues move up or down, come in and out of collaboration, as priorities and budgets shift, you will find yourself constantly adapting to new ways of doing business in order to survive and thrive.

Complexity gurus David Snowden and Mary Boone have called this “The Domain of Emergence.” Their seminal article, A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making, ( Harvard Business Review*)  gives a great introduction to the Key characteristics of an increasingly complex workplace, including:

  • Flux and unpredictability
  • No right answers;
  • Unknown unknowns
  • Many competing ideas
  • A need for creative and innovative approaches
  • Pattern-based leadership

Think about your work and colleagues and nearly all of those should feel immediately familiar.

Now think about your social circles and how you interact through the tools of social networking.

When planning something as simple as a dinner out with friends the boundaries of decisions have become extremely soft. Plans can – and often do – change right up until the last minute as DM’s, texts, tweets, and pin-drops influence our ability to stick to a hard plan.

This can feel frustrating for those of us accustomed to locking-in our decisions early, but it opens the door for experiences and last minute discoveries that can only be found by embracing emerging opportunities.

Those experiences are the unknowns that only come to light when one of your group texts or tweets that en route to the restaurant they heard a great band playing a few blocks away, or when the first person to the theatre sees a line a mile long and can reach the rest of the group to organize a last-minute backup plan.

Social networking has improved our ability to adjust to the unpredictable and quickly explore competing ideas (where to eat, what to wear, who brings what for the potluck). We can probe (suggest something), sense (see how others react), and then respond, and our ability to identify patters is heightened because enough information is shared openly that they emerge.

So how can we take those abilities and apply them to our workplace?

Start by tackling a project through any one of your socially enabled platforms. Google docs with google + and circles, or a Linkedin group limited to your partners in collaboration, or just by agreeing as a team to have the conversations around the project through any one of your social-streams, tracked by a hash-tag or equivalent so you can move through probe, sense, and respond much more quickly.

Use your streams as a group to probe, sense, and respond. It’s a lot like being able to challenge the ideas of an “outsider” because of the veil of security afforded by the stream. Laying out some ground-rules in advance can strengthen this advantage, allowing you to challenge assumptions as a team very rapidly and use ideas from across the group to form solutions.

Social media is moving away from being every leader’s biggest fear to being one of our best opportunities to foster community and innovation at work. Get cracking.

*Just google the titles if you don’t have access to a library. Lots of organizations have pdf’s on their website.


Three Leadership Lessons from Spider-Man

Well, we’re about three days away from everyone in the world not caring about Spider-Man and the over $200 million grossing movie about my favourite superhero (see photo) [Editor's note: fair enough, The Dark Knight Rises will most likely be the greatest superhero movie ever made]. Consequently, I thought that I’d reflect on some of the things that – long ago and before it was cool – I made The Amazing Spider-Man my most favourite of comic book characters.

After seeing the 2012 film about my favourite superhero (here’s my quick review: it’s the same story arc as the Toby McGuire version and the cartoon and is just better in every way), I got to thinking about why, in addition to the facts that, first, nerds are awesome and, second, Spidey is totally protected from the terrifying Sun, the web slinger resonates so much with me.

The answer is simple: more than any other superhero, Spider-Man builds and inspires community.

Plainly put, he does so with a unique formula of leadership of kindness, humour, humility, smarts, passion, and responsibility. And below are three leadership lessons that you can take away from Spider-Man. No, this not a “new idea” and “a few people” have “already written about this” in “2010″ – this being said, my lessons get to the punchline quicker and better. And the artwork (see below) that I chose to adorn this post is adorable.

Spider-Man / John's go-to Halloween costume

Without further ado, here they are:

1. Take Responsibility. For weak leaders, this is an absolute burden. Great leaders take responsibility for their actionsespecially the screw ups and downright failures. Spider-Man leads by example and he not only owns up for the mistakes/failures/giant-lizards that “he created”, but he also solves said great problems with his great power.

2. Think Outside the Box Make Awesome Things and Show Them to People. Good leaders “think outside the box” and, consequently, find most of their creativity in outdated cliches. Great leaders inspire by the work they produce. According to Simon Sinek, great leaders relentlessly pursue the question “why?”, which is certainly at the centre of Spider-Man’s story. For example, Spider-Man’s “web shooters” are both flat-out cool and reflective of this particular leader’s elevated intelligence, not to mention his inventive entrepreneurial spirit. Also, the Spider-Man brand is so friggin’ cool that, by the end of Marvel’s most recent film, Peter Parker’s once-nemesis, Flash Thompson, is seen sportin’ some Spidey-wear! Community-building achieved and teenage-angst overcome!

3. Be Nice (and Funny). There’s a reason that he’s called “Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man” – first, he’s nice to people (take some advice from Colin Powell, Wolverine and Batman?) and, second, he doesn’t take himself too seriously (Doug Guthrie says to stop being so serious all the time, Superman). Sure, his outfit protects him from the Sun and his friends from retribution, but his possibly-luge-inspired spandex uni-tard also reveals how this community-driven leader who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Being relaxed and fun (and, when appropriate, funny) puts people at ease and provides some great circumstances for building a positive sense of community.

Finally, never underestimate any leaders “spider-sense” and their ability to trust such instincts. Intuitively, Spider-Man can see things coming before they happen, and this kind of strategic thinking will serve any great leader very, very well.

So there it is. Some leadership learning that strategically and edutainingly connects to my favourite – and, unfortunately though understandably soon-to-be-forgotten, superhero, Spider-Man.

Masthead photo courtesy of msspider66′s Photostream on Flicker

Vote for Alan Bates!

Alan Bates with the Portland FC team at the Homeless World Cup in Brazil

Dear Gumbooteers.

Rarely do Kurt and I call on you for swift and decisive action. But we’re asking for it now. Please visit MLS W.O.R.K.S. (which stands for Major League Soccer … W.O.R.K.S?) and vote to make friend of The ‘Boot, Alan Bates, the MLS Community MVP. Nominated by Vancouver Whitecaps FC, here are a few words about Coach Bates:

For the last four years, Dr. Alan Bates has been leading Vancouver’s Street Soccer community. Street Soccer is soccer for people affected by homelessness. As a resident physician in Vancouver’s inner-city hospital, Dr. Bates sees many people affected by mental illness, addictions and homelessness in the emergency room. When he heard about Street Soccer, he recognized it as an opportunity to help a similar group of people, but through sport. Shortly after joining Vancouver’s first Street Soccer team as a volunteer, Dr. Bates partnered with a small number of grass-roots volunteers and the Portland Hotel Society (one of Vancouver’s largest social housing providers) to form Portland FC. With Dr. Bates as the volunteer Head Coach, Portland FC has gone on to play with or against the Vancouver Police, the Mayor of Vancouver and some of the Vancouver Whitecaps. In 2010, they represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro where they won the prestigious Fair Play award and were featured on national and international media including CBC, CTV, and CNN. In addition to providing amazing experiences for the players, the team has generated a lot of public interest in the issue of homelessness as people are able to identify with soccer players and the inherent humanity of the highs and lows of the beautiful game. Dr. Bates also played a significant role in creating Canada’s first ever women’s Street Soccer team which represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Paris in 2011. As the President of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, Dr. Bates has grown the League to nine teams including teams for women, new immigrants, street youth, and First Nations players. Dr. Bates’ research about Street Soccer has demonstrated that players find better housing, gain employment, reduce drug use, make friends, build confidence, improve their skills and physical fitness, gain medical support and decrease contact with police. For the last four years, players have known that every Sunday morning, rain or shine, all year-round, Dr. Bates will be there to lead practice and provide a safe and fun environment to play soccer with friends and supports.

Meta World Peace being honoured and priviledged to meet Coach Alan Bates

Thanks very much for your time and consideration, Awesome Community-Members. Now get out there and vote early, often and tell 10 friends about this post.


Masthead photo courtesy of robholland’s photostream on Flickr

Social Change Leadership

lumaxart's photostream / Flickr

On Thursday I participated in an awesome staff retreat with my very awesome teammates. One of the many themes of discussion for the day was the Social Change Model of Leadership, made popular (at least within circles of higher education) by Susan Komives and her community of practice. I’ll let Susan explain it to you:

Awesome, right? If you didn’t catch ‘em, here are the Seven C’s of the Social Change Model of Leadership:

Citizenship: Citizenship occurs when one becomes responsibly connected to the community/society in which one resides by actively working toward change to benefit others through care, service, social responsibility, and community involvement.

Common Purpose: Common purpose necessitates and contributes to a high level of group trust involving all participants in shared responsibility towards collective aims, values, and vision.

Collaboration:Collaboration multiplies a group’s effort through collective contributions, capitalizing on the diversity and strengths of the relationship and interconnections of individuals involved in the change process. Collaboration assumes that a group is working towards a Common Purpose, with mutually beneficial goals, and serves to generate creative solutions as a result of group diversity, requiring participants to engage across difference and share authority, responsibility, and accountability for its success.

Controversy with Civility: Within a diverse group, it is inevitable that differing viewpoints will exist. In order for a group to work toward positive social change, open, critical, and civil discourse can lead to new, creative solutions and is an integral component of the leadership process. Multiple perspectives need to be understood, integrated, and bring value to a group.

Consciousness of Self: Consciousness of self requires an awareness of personal beliefs, values, attitudes, and emotions. Self-awareness, conscious, mindfulness, introspection, and continual personal reflection are foundation elements of the leadership process.

Congruence: Congruence requires that one has identified personal values, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions and acts consistently with those values, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. A congruent individual is genuine and honest and “walks the talk.”

Commitment: Commitment requires an intrinsic passion, energy, and purposeful investment toward action. Follow-through and willing involvement through commitment lead to positive social change.

An at the centre of the whole model is the concept of change – hey, it’s the only sure thing in life. There are many things to like about the Social Change Model of Leadership and the positive, community-minded change that it seeks to create. In my business – which is career development, or, more interestingly put: fostering a capacity for people to realize their potentiality and make the world a better place through their work – I am excited to combine elements of this model with triple-bottom-line sustainability principles.

The data – from Chaos Theory of Careers to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – is already showing us that our future leaders (say, by 2030) will need to really and truly invest in a cradle-to-cradle approach to business, education, governance, technology, and the arts.

Everybody is already talking about the need to prepare learners (in high school or higher ed) for jobs that don’t exist yet. My goal is to prepare learners to lead teams that do work that employers don’t even know they need yet, which is why integrating triple-bottom-line sustainability principles (Natural Step or otherwise) with Social Change Leadership will foster potentiality-realizing leaders who can support their communities through the next next challenge and transform said problems into next next solutions.