Echonomics

Echonomics

Echonomics

By Bill Dahl

All Rights reserved

Echo – A Refresher for Context

You need a couple of things to produce an echo:

1.      A sound – for humans, a sound that is audible.

2.      A reflector – a surface or substance for the sound to bounce off of.

3.      A sound lag – the reflection of the sound must be composed of a time lag to be distinguished from the original sound.

4.      A receptor – an ability to hear the sound reflected.

When you think about it, echoes have something in common with our other senses:

  • An echo can be heard by the person creating it, as well as others. Yet, what everyone hears is basically the same sound.
  • The same is true for taste. The taste buds of the chef baking an apple pie receive the same delightful sensations as all those sampling it. Apple pie tastes like apple pie.
  • Touch the red coils glowing on a stove top and you understand immediately what hot is – whether or not you were the one who turned the burner on.
  • The sight of chocolate pudding appears brown whether you made it, purchased it at a store, or enjoyed it at a restaurant.
  • Smoke smells like smoke whether you started the combustion or not.

What’s the point?

Let’s imagine that you awakened tomorrow and the following had occurred: Your ability to taste took a minute or so for food to register with your taste buds. The entire process of eating would be rearranged. (We would probably eat less too). What if you laid your hand on the red hot coils of your stove but it took fifteen seconds to register hot with your sense of touch? What if your eyes required ten seconds to recognize color? If you couldn’t recognize the smell of smoke for ten minutes after it initially hit your nostrils, the effects from the delayed ability to react to the impending danger would be catastrophic. The point is that we humans are designed with an array of sophisticated sensory equipment. We hear, taste, touch, see and smell in distinctly similar ways. This magnificent engineering allows us to share and celebrate common sensory experiences in life – together.

Echonomics – Recognizing the Role of Memory

The current global economic conundrum has illuminated two, often overlooked, additional dimensions of the role of the echo. The first is that our minds have the ability to recall the sensory experiences of the past. Memory is an echo. The echoes of previous U.S. economic crises have an uncanny tendency to continue to ricochet throughout the corridors of time. These echoes impact our cognitive ability, as we attempt to comprehend and deal with various dimensions of the current economic crises. Today in the U.S., we hear the most immediate, resounding echoes of our economic infrastructure creaking; Lehman Brothers crashing, the pounding of another foreclosure notice or for sale sign on the front lawn of another neighborhood home, AIG, Freddie and Fannie bellowing for capital infusions, IndyMac and Washington Mutual collapsing, the flow of capital throughout the financial system becoming an annoying drip, government loans to address the cries in the ward of the ailing American auto industry, and the breaking apart of Merrill and Citigroup, to name only a few. These current day echoes send our minds searching for similar sounds within the recesses of the history of our nations economic system – The Great Depression, downturns in the 70’s, 80’s, 1990 – 91 and 2001. Yet, as we process the echoes from our past, we quickly realize that our past does not equip us adequately to deal with these unprecedented times. At best, these memories echo the fact that the lessons learned during previous, comparable, economic eras in our history, require the immediate development and implementation of new forms of fiscal policy to address our current predicament.

What we hear from the past does not always equip us adequately to deal with today. However, in this sense, echonomics provides us with an inescapable component of our ability to evaluate and attempt to comprehend the current crises. Echonomics supplies a terribly valuable capability; it allows us to exclude attempts to apply old approaches to the distinctly unique economic challenges confronting us today. As one publication confirms: “America’s GDP may have fallen by an annualized 6% in the fourth quarter of 2008, but most economists dismiss the likelihood of a 1930s-style depression or a repeat of Japan in the 1990s, because policymakers are unlikely to repeat the mistakes of the past.” [i]

Echonomics – The Sonar Scenario

The second most often overlooked dimension of echonomics is that it leads us to look beyond the obvious. Echoes are invisible to the human sense of sight. The loudest, most prominent echoes garner and dominate our attention. A shotgun blast discharged at the bottom of the Grand Canyon obscures the echo of a young boy shouting at the same moment the round was fired. Yet, science has harnessed the use of the echo as a measurement tool. This is basically how sonar works; by electronically analyzing the echo time lag of sound waves. Sonar determines the existence, distance and location of objects beneath the surface of the sea that we cannot ascertain with our human senses alone. In this sense, echonomics implores us to become aware of the existence of conditions beneath the surface of the most apparent, easily recognizable attributes of the current economic crisis. How do we do this?

We rely upon measures like consumer confidence[ii], unemployment figures[iii], the consumer debt index[iv], and foreclosure data[v]. Interestingly enough, these are measurements that were developed in the distant past. Yet, as London School of Economics Professor Charles Handy once wrote:

“The first step is to measure whatever can be easily counted. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that which can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that which can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.”[vi]

I find it very interesting that the awareness of the depth, breadth and complexity of current U.S. economic crises did not come from interviews with families who were losing their homes to foreclosure, broadcast by the major U.S. media outlets. When we experienced the thundering crash of Lehman Brothers, Fannie and Freddie reverberating through the economic headlines, the government U.S. became deafened to the distress signals of individuals, families and small business – I refer to this as echollateral damage: the echo from significant organizational/institutional failures in the economic sector drown out the distress signals of the smaller units within the overall economy – particularly the U.S. consumer and small business.

Clearly, the most immediate and tangible attempts to address the current crisis by the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Congress have been targeted at repairing the prop in the financial services sector of the economy. At the same time, the sonar readings indicate that the pain of the U.S. consumer has risen precariously close to the hull of the good ship USS Economy.

Is the U.S. economy in danger of running aground or do we remain capable of navigating away from the ever encroaching possibility of a hull breach?

Summary:

It’s time to pay attention to the rapidly increasing frequency of the bleep, bleep, bleep emanating from the echonomics sonar. There has been a seismic shift on the sea floor of the U.S. economy whose shock waves have created the tsunami we are presently dealing with on the surface. The depth charts we have used to guide our navigation during previous voyages through these types of rough seas have changed materially. The rise in unemployment, the systemic depletion in the asset values of 401K, savings and brokerage accounts, the rise in default rates on mortgages and other consumer credit related obligations, and the fact that for millions of American consumers, the value of their primary personal residence now exceeds the mortgage(s) due; well — this factual reality has risen to such a level that trillions of gallons of liquidity have evaporated from the oceans of capital in this economy. Draft is a term that can be used to describe the depth of water a vessel requires when loaded to navigate safely. Presently, the USS Economy is heavily burdened and the sea floor has risen to create a situation where our vessel is precariously close to running aground and breaching the hull.

The purchasing power, employment stability, creditworthiness and liquidity of the U.S. consumer have always contributed mightily to the essential depth and buoyancy the USS Economy requires to sail safely and effectively. These factors enhance our ability to prosperously and confidently navigate into the future.

It has been said that “social crises…become apparent only when those who bear the scars of the crises speak out, insisting that their stories become part of the public dialogue.”[vii] Perhaps it’s time that we garner a renewed appreciation for the practical reality of the concept of echonomics that has been illuminated herein: The voices of those whose lives who have been substantively overlooked in the current economic crisis require our public policy makers to listen differently…to not only attend to the thundering echoes of institutional and infrastructure failures, but turn their attention to those whose cries remain muted as they attempt to call attention to their plight, amidst the rubble. Let’s not overlook the power in the fact that “courage is contagious. It overcomes the silence and fear that estrange people from one another.”[viii] Let’s not underestimate the constructive possibilities for truly recognizing the presently muted voice of the American consumer, the American homeowner, the American small business community, and the American family.

It has been suggested that “When economics is the main model for our common life, we are more and more tempted to put ourselves in the hands of the manager and the expert.”[ix] This treatment of the concept of echonomics is a reminder to those so empowered, to turn their attention to the plight of those American voices that remain muted by the more prominent echoes of institutional and infrastructure crashes.

As Professor Handy said above, to fail to adequately measure and address these concerns is a form of blindness we cannot afford to avoid any longer. May this wisdom echo across our land.

blindness we cannot afford to avoid any longer.

blindness we cannot afford to avoid any longer.

blindness we cannot afford to avoid any longer.

NOTES:


1 http://www.economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12852043

2 http://www.conference-board.org/economics/ConsumerConfidence.cfm This index is now at historic low as of January 2009. This measure has been in use since 1967.

3 See http://www.bls.gov/

4 See http://news.prnewswire.com/DisplayReleaseContent.aspx?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/11-28-2008/0004933422&EDATE=

5 See RealtyTrac at: http://www.realtytrac.com/ContentManagement/PressRelease.aspx?template=nonmemb_cm

6 Handy, Charles The Age of Paradox, Harvard Business School Press © 1994 p. 221

7 Rogat Loeb, Paul Soul of A Citizen – Living With Conviction In Cynical Times, Copyright © 1999 by Paul Rogat Loeb, St. Martin’s Press, NY,NY p. 131.

8 Rogat Loeb, Paul The Impossible Will Take A Little While – A Citizen’s Guide To Hope In A Time of Fear Copyright © 2004 by Paul Rogat Loeb, Basic Books – Perseus Books Group, NY,NY p. 11

9 Bellah, Robert N et al.  Habits of The Heart- Individualism and Commitment in American Life, University of California Press Berkeley, CA © 1985 and 1996 by The Regents of The University of California, p. 271

Vertigonomics

Vertigonomics

Communicable Disease Center

34 Econo Drive

Washington, D.C. USA

January 16, 2009

Bulletin: ETD Epidemic AlertVertigonomics:

It’s spreading — fast.

Lobbies of banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, hedge funds, brokerage firms, law firms, physicians and the emergency rooms of hospitals throughout the U.S. have been inundated over the past week with American consumers afflicted with what is believed to be a highly contagious, life-as-you-knew-it threatening malady. At the time of this writing, public health officials remain somewhat baffled. Although current details are sketchy, the only common characteristic identified among the afflicted is that all claim to be suffering from Economically Transmitted Diseases. Based upon this fact, the following is hereby communicated to the public:

Infectious Disease Alert – CDC #2009-10-4 C:

The CDC confirms that an outbreak of Economically Transmitted Diseases has reached epidemic levels in the United States. According to CDC Director Dr. E. Conomy;  “We have confirmed that this uniquely contagious disease has now infected unprecedented numbers of American families, companies and the financial infrastructure of the United States. It is airborne. Presently referred to as Vertigonomics, officials at every level of both the public and private sector are working feverishly to develop a vaccine to stop the spread of this malady. Unfortunately, our collective attempts to halt the ongoing infection rate have not met with the results we had hoped for. However, we remain dedicated to developing and distribute the essential protocols required to address this national public health priority.”

Epidemiology:

Demographically, there are no identifiable persons, families, companies who have immunity.

Symptoms – Vertigonomics:

· Distinctly elevated levels of anxiety and insecurity.

· Persistent and unrelenting fears and worries about the current state of ones financial situation.

· An overwhelming sense of uncertainty about the future for yourself, your job, family, your employer, community, country, and the world around you.

· A deeply held gut feeling that these are unprecedented times.

· An almost complete loss of confidence that “government actions will get us out of this mess.”

· Rage and a horrifying feeling of exclusion when you hear terms like bailout, rescue plan, TARP, and stimulus.

· You feel that your life has become unbalanced and you suffer from a recurring sense of economic dizziness, unable to regain your previously held financial foothold.

· A cosmic sense that the sky is falling or that life’s rug has been ripped out from beneath you.

· The hopes, dreams and expectations that you held for you and yours have been somehow dismembered by forces outside your control.

· A distinct, paralyzing feeling of helplessness.

· You’ve heard yourself say or think incessantly, “This sucks!”

· You have spoken to a representative of your mortgage holder and have come to the realization that the help they say they are authorized to provide you and yours is woefully inadequate.

· You are seriously considering the cessation of payments to your mortgage holder(s) so you might qualify for federal homeowner foreclosure relief programs that are being debated.

· When you hear the term recession it confirms your own depression.

· When you see the most recent poll on declining consumer confidence in the U.S., you feel good about being included in something.

· Your world today seems upside-down.

Diagnosis – Vertigonomics:

· You do not have enough money to make ends meet.

· Your 401K has lost 30% + of its former value.

· You may have been laid off or legitimately fear the same.

· You have witnessed a distinct increase in the rate of business failures in your community.

· The value of your primary personal residence has declined below what you owe your mortgage holder(s).

· Your company is slashing expenses, has frozen new hires, and reduced employee benefits significantly for 2009.

· When you watch the evening news surf the net or read you daily newspaper, you say “Holy crap!” at least once.

· You read the foreclosure notice section of your newspaper on a daily basis just as you have read the obituary section routinely in the past. You’ve seen the names of people you know in there as well.

· You see ‘For Sale’ signs when you close your eyes in bed at night.

· Foreclosure notices seem to outnumber paid advertising placement in your local newspaper.

· You can’t remember what you spent the last federal stimulus check on that you received in 2008. You certainly didn’t purchase anything that is visible in your current living environment.

Status of Treatment/Immunization/Innoculation/Vaccination

Vertigonomics is a uniquely resistant strain of ETD. As stated by the CDC’s Dr. Fed: “We’ve never seen anything remotely close to this malady before. Our current efforts to contain this contagion have been – well, we’ll see.”

Laboratory trials of the “green jobs” vaccine indicate that this may be an essential and viable part of the treatment protocol. However, the healing realized may take several years. Capital injections into major money-center banks to spur both stabilization and an increase in liquidity in the U.S. financial system have yet to produce the desired results. The merit of continuing these injections is an ongoing debate. A transfusion of funds directed at shovel-ready public works infrastructure improvements is promising; again, as a component of the required formula. The effects of grafting federal funds into the body of the ailing auto industry is considered to be “too soon to tell.” However, common sense suggests that additional taxpayer dollars will be required.

Conclusion:

If you feel forgotten as a law abiding, tax-paying citizen of this country, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans are infected with the same malady that you’re currently suffering from. We realize that there is little, tangible solace in the fact that your misery has tons of company.

However, it is our hope that the American consumer, as an individual and familial unit, will receive what you require; the immediate, direct and deliberate injection of a form of relief that may stimulate and restore the balance and confidence that is fundamental to a return to stability, accompanied by a cessation of the staggering sense of dizziness that this affliction continues to perpetrate upon the innocent citizens of this country. The following are pertinent considerations:

  • Cessation of Federal payroll taxes for two years. BOTH companies and employees will have additional cash flow.
  • Extend unemployment benefits for 12 months beyond their current expiration.
  • Fund shovel-ready public works projects designed to address legitimate infrastructure restoration and public education projects in the U.S.
  • Provide residential home builders with tax incentives to design and build smaller, high density primary personal residences that are both affordable for the workforce.
  • Provide tax incentives toencourage enrollment in higher education.
  • Provide federal incentives to spur volunteerism in our society.
  • Re-engineer the healthcare component of the conundrum.
  • Federal Incentives to companies who create new jobs in the U.S.
  • Tangible tax relief for small business and new start-ups.
  • Use TARP funds allowing community banks to swap their impaired real-property related assets and boost their liquidity allowing them to return to lending to the citizens and businesses within which they reside.
  • Stem the swelling tide of foreclosures and the ongoing spiral of residential real property valuations with tangible, systemic relief. Allow lenders to re-appraise residential properties and adjust mortgages down to current market value. Provide tax credits in an amount commensurate to the mortgage relief they provide, allowing them to shield future profits against this sum, while not requiring the loan loss reserves to further deplete their balance sheets and federally mandated capitalization ratios.

Honestly, what has been missing in all our recent attempts to develop a treatment modality for Vertigonomics is the courage to confront the entire spectrum of this malady with the boldness and courage required. As of the date of this writing, the CDC will boldly advocate for the essential political support to enact the measures described above.

We hope you will join us. Call your elected representatives and bring their attention to this bulletin. Perhaps, they might garner a deeper appreciation for the effects that Vertigonomics is having on Main Street vs. the attention they have been providing to Wall Street.

Yes, In God We Trust — the other part of this equation is that God expects us to do something constructive about the circumstances that confront us — together.

The Brown Decision

The Brown Decision

Date: Friday January 16, 2009

To: The Redmond Spokesman

Subject: Guest Opinion – The Brown Decision

I read the Spokesman’s January 14, 2009 Editorial and Richard Lance’s attack with dismay and a deep sense of sadness. These two printed outbursts might be characterized as the most blistering barrage aimed at public education here in Redmond in several years.

If there is one segment within the Redmond community where we seem to have collectively come together with a consensus approach to the necessity for improvement, it is the area of the improving the results produced by our local system — The Redmond School District.

However, one cannot assume that this mandate is limited solely and superficially to simply improvements in current facilities addressed by the voters May 2008 approval of the school bond. Although the environments within which the education of our children and young adults occurs is paramount, we, as a community have recognized that the results produced within those environments is truly the tale of the tape (Please refer to the components and benchmarks of the Redmond Education Vision).

Should the evaluation of present approaches, environments, systems, and methods presently relied upon to garner improvements in student academic achievement, in each and every sector of the Redmond School District dictate that immediate and wholesale changes must be made, so be it. This is exactly what the DNA of the community discussion during 2007 and 2008 injected into the marching orders and agenda of the School Board, staff and Superintendent.

The Brown decision is a superb example that our School Board and Superintendent have heard the community’s voice loud and clear. Furthermore, they aren’t just listening; they are acting on this agenda, armed with the essential measurements revealing that the ongoing, sub-standard/mediocre academic preparedness performance results at Brown are unacceptable.

To effectively improve a system, with all the component parts that a large organization like the Redmond School District possesses, requires one to take a very hard look at the outcomes presently produced by each and every operating unit. Brown is no exception. Armed with this data, one is confronted with making some very difficult decisions. When these decisions are made, some people are likely to be unhappy; accountability, innovation and implementing essential improvement tend to have that effect on human beings.

As a taxpayer, Redmond resident, and a parent with a student at Redmond High School, I applaud the actions of the School Board, staff and the Superintendent to continue to confront these difficult challenges head on, wherever they may be identified within the current system. That’s exactly what this community charged them to do in the referendum the voters passed in May 2008. That’s integrity.

There’s no integrity gap that need be spanned here. This Board and this Superintendent have restored that essential structure.

Faith To Confront Unprecedented Economic Times

Reflect on This

In these unprecedented economic times , what might faith mean?  Theologian Brian McLaren suggests:

“Faith involves admitting with humility and boldness that we need to change, to go against the flow, to be different, to face and shine the light on our cherished illusions and prejudices, and to discover new truths that can be liberating even though they may be difficult for the ego, painful to the pride.” (1)

From the above, we can see that the faith required to reimagine creating tomorrow today involves a multi-dimensional approach. Let me explain:

(1) It requires admission – a confession, if you will.

(2) The nature of this admission is twofold: it must be humble and bold.

In terms of the humility dimension of this matter, the following from Rabbi Harold Kushner speaks to the heart of the matter:

“being human is such a complicated challenge that all of us will make mistakes in the process of learning how to do it right, then we can come to see our mistakes not as emblems of our unworthiness but as experiences we can learn from. We will be brave enough to try something new without being afraid of getting it wrong. Our sense of shame will be the result of our humility, our learning our limits, rather than our wanting to hide from scrutiny because we have done badly.” (2)

The boldness dimension of the admission is characterized concisely by Senator John McCain. He refers to it as courage:

Courage (emphasis is mine) is that rare moment of unity between conscience, fear, and action, when something deep within us strikes the flint of love, of honor, of duty, to make the spark that fires our resolve.” (3)

3) In terms of speaking about illuminating our  illusions, most folks can get pretty riled up. Why? Because it causes us to truly examine and evaluate the truthfulness  and practical application of what we have been assuming, thinking and doing. Consider the following from Daniel Levinson:

“As he attempts to reappraise his life, a man discovers how much it has been based on illusions, and he is faced with the task of de-illusionment. By this expression I mean a reduction of illusions, a recognition that long held assumptions and beliefs about self and world are not true. This process merits special attention because illusions play so vital a role in our lives throughout the life cycle.”(4)

(4) Residing comfortably within many of our illusions rest our prejudices. As Dr. King once said:

“There is little hope for us until we become tough-minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths and downright ignorance.” (5)

Finally, there’s that issue about what to do with faith. As McLaren defines it, faith is certainly not something the human species is imbued with whose sole purpose is some form of peace of mind, resting comfortably on a couch. No, faith is designed to move us from spectating to participation. The following sums it up quite nicely:

“Whatever our passions and commitments may be, we all face similar questions about how to cross the threshold from passivity to participation, to make our voices heard and make our actions count, and reawaken and sustain our faith in the future.” (6)

So, what’s your response? Once again, the words of Dr. King echo a truth with a poignant, present day application:

“To be honest is to confront the truth. However unpleasant and inconvenient the truth may be, I believe we must expose and face it if we are to achieve a better quality of American life.” (7)

May this writing be one element of inspiration that provides you with the courage to act on your faith to improve the community you reside in.

Reflect on this.

NOTES:

(1) McLaren, Brian Finding Faith, Copyright © 1999 by Brian McLaren, Zondervan Grand Rapids, MI pp.13-14.

(2) Kushner, Harold S. How Good Do We Have To Be – A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness, Little, Brown and Company Boston, MA Copyright © 1996 by Harold S. Kushner, p. 39.

(3) McCain, John In Search of Courage, Fast Company Magazine, Issue Number 86, September 2004, Copyright © 2004 by Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing p.54-56.

(4) Levinson, Daniel J., The Seasons Of A Man’s Life, New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Copyright © 1978, p.192

(5) Scott King, Coretta The Words of Martin Luther King Jr., Newmarket Press, NY, NY Copyright © 1983 by Coretta Scott King and Newmarket Press, p. 30.

(6) Rogat Loeb, Paul. Soul of a Citizen-Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time, St. Martin’s Griffin, NY  Copyright © 1999 by Paul Rogat Loeb, p.11.

(7) Scott King, Coretta The Words of Martin Luther King Jr., Newmarket Press, NY, NY Copyright © 1983 by Coretta Scott King and Newmarket Press, p. 89.

Pray For America!

group-prayer

Just a month away
The grand gala in D.C.
Ushering in a new era
To become what we must be.

As I ponder this moment,
I have more questions than answers.
I’m tired of the spin:
Twirling semantics dancers.

My country is troubled,
Like no period in our past.
Citizens yearn for solutions:
The kind made to last.

Where do you start?
When faced with such a mess.
Tumultuous times.
Tremendous stress.

The skies clouded above us,
Threatening ominous weather.
Perhaps we might consider,
Truly coming together.

One would be naïve to think,
“To have what we had would be nice.”
To reclaim our futures footing,
Will require change and sacrifice.

Improvements in healthcare
Jobs, energy and education.
The challenge is formidable,
For any administration.

I’ve learned that our leaders
A heavy burden they must bear.
May our nation come together,
Covering all with prayer.

Imagine the possibilities,
Citizens down on their knees,
Praising the Almighty –
One beseeching breeze.

It’s absurd to assume,
The challenges can be met by one man.
Yet, with America in prayer.
“Oh yes We can!”

Econverision – Thinking About Community Economic Development

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During the past several months or so, I’ve been considering the process of developing a new vision for community economic development. A process where people converge to converse about the development of a vision. I call this process Econverision.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said,  “a new step; uttering a new word is what people fear most.” Don’t get uptight. There’s nothing to be afraid of. According to London Business School Professor Charles Handy Words are the bugles of social change.” (2) Let me explain.


In his most recent book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, three time Pulitzer prize winning author Thomas L. Friedman wrote that we must think strategically to:

“innovate our ways to new possibilities that right now seem unimaginable. The longer we wait to set out on such a strategic path though, the deeper the pail out of which we will have to climb.” (1)

This got me thinking. What does it mean to think strategically in 2009? Here are a couple of thoughts:

1. We have to think – deliberately, intentionally, differently. During economic downturns, many people assume the posture of what I refer to as the foxhole mentality – They hunker down and cover their heads, enduring the threat of their surroundings, repeating the mantra, this too shall pass. In other words, they maintain the position they occupied before their external circumstances changed. They assume that when the current shelling stops, the rules of engagement and the battle will remain the same. Furthermore, holding your ground, intending to repeat what you’ve been doing may not be a plausible battle plan as things improve.

2. How do you think deliberately/intentionally? – If the momentum in your life is anything like mine, you must make time, rather than attempt to find time to think. Yes, I’ve found that deliberate thinking about a particular subject can and must be intentionally scheduled – well, if its really worth serious consideration anyway.

3. Thinking strategically necessarily involves others – Yes, I continue to be amazed what occurs when you converge with others as a group with a common topic on the table. Particularly if the people gathered have a desire to explore creating something better than what presently is. Today, it’s probably more important that ever to consider a few new principles as it relates to involving others:

Invite the uninvited – Make a deliberate attempt to have those who have not traditionally participated in community economic development discussions to become a part of these forums. As Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith point out: “Revolutionary thinking often originates in young people, newcomers, outsiders and those at the bottom with little to lose, who bring a celebration of dissent and a wellspring of new ideas.”(3)

Expect the Unexpected – Leave titles, agenda, ego, position, authority and expertise at the door when you enter these forums. Come expectantly, desiring to hear and be inspired by an idea that comes from someone else. It means “creating a space that is free and inviolable, in which dissent and difference are encouraged and celebrated.”(4)

Shepherd the Sharing – The environment of these forums cannot be led by “captains of industry or power brokers, but by  leaders acting as coordinators, connectors, facilitators, mentors, coaches, and mediators who bridge, network and link people, and activate group energies to generate new configurations and possibilities.” (5)

According to an article entitled The Fiscal Roadmap – Why These Are Not Ordinary Times – We Need A Fiscal Roadmap To Show The Way – authored by Anne Vorce and Maya MacGuineas in December 2008 – they state:

Meeting our current and future economic and fiscal challenges will require the continued development of new ideas, the facilitation of a public conversation, (emphasis is mine) and the political will to make hard choices. We will need a fiscal roadmap to show us the way.

Yes, it appears that, once again, we are going to have to learn to change. What might this mean. Peter F. Drucker has suggested: “To be a change leader requires the willingness and ability to change what is already being done just as much as it is to do new and different things. It requires policies to make the present create the future. (emphasis is mine) (6)

There are three essential elements to Drucker’s thesis to evaluate, define,  and implement policies to make the present create the future. These include:

1. Abandon Yesterday – “to free resources from being committed to maintaining what no longer contributes to performance.” ( I would add that performance is henceforth re-defined by the new economic development vision).

2. Organized Improvement – “whatever an enterprise does internally and externally needs to be improved systematically and continuously.” (p.80).

3. Exploit Success – “Starve problems and feed opportunities.” (p.82). What this does not mean is to resist change and remain comfortable with going through the same old motions.

4. Systematic Innovation – Relying on the integration and implementation of the three principles identified above, change leaders must  “build into the enterprise a systematic policy of innovation – a policy to create change. “(p. 84).

Why do I advocate for the the development a “new vision” for community economic development through the process of econverision? For one, patriotism. I am not comfortable sitting around complacently “thinking about what the world will look like as the rest rise and the West wanes.”  (7) For me, it’s a personal responsibility as a privileged citizen of the community and nation within which I reside. It has been said that “what distinguishes economies today are ideas and energy.” (8) I can get really energized thinking about the economic development possibilities for the future in my community and my country. I bet you can too.

I also think it’s time to understand that we have entered a new period in our history that will require wholesale adjustments in the former ways we have approached economic development. Listen to the following:

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBA’s who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people — artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers — will now reap society’s richest rewards and share it’s greatest joys.” (9)

Why a vision? Think about it like this for a moment:

Visions cause people to grow, learn and expand their abilities in order to achieve what they desire…Many changes start as a vision of what might be. …Every revolution starts with a personal transformation in which courageous leaders see that something is not working  and develop the determination to change it…They find it necessary to create confidence in others and convince them that the change is going to mean something, that the process will be open and hospitable, that the environment within which the change takes place will also be transformed.” (10)

The quote above (9) from Daniel H. Pink suggests we are moving from the Information Age to what he refers to as The Conceptual Age. I believe Cloke and Goldsmith would concur with Pink as they state:

“Every social, political and organizational revolution traces it’s origins to a conceptual revolution (emphasis is mine) in which someone had a new idea. Revolutionary thinking begins in the mind, then seeks ways of translating this vision into reality. It means being open to ideas that fundamentally critique the existing paradigm. and seek to trransform it. It means questioning stock answers and being committed to altering fundamentals. Because fresh ideas always come from outside the existing paradigm, imagination is the most important resource for leaders.” (11)

I am a tax paying, red-blooded American. I have children and grand-children. I’m competitive. I think it time to embrace the process of econverision in my community.

More about that in my next post on this topic next week. Until then, why don’t you share this post with folks in your community. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Post a response.


NOTES

(1) Handy, Charles The Age of UNREASON Harvard Business School Press © 1994 p. 17.

(2) Friedman, Thomas A. Hot, Flat & Crowded- Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America, Copyright © 2008 Farrar, Straus & Giroux New York, NY p. 49.

(3) Cloke, Kenneth and Goldsmith, Joan The End of Management And The Rise of Organizational Democracy, Copyright © 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company San Francisco, CA, p. 174.

(4) Ibid p. 102.

(5) Ibid p. 103

(6) Drucker, Peter F. Management Challenges For The 21st Century, Copyright © 1999 by Peter F. Drucker, Harper Collins Publishers NY, NY, p. 74.

(7) Zakaria, Fareed The Post-American World, Copyright 2008 by Fareed Zakaria, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. NY, NY.  p. 81.

(8) Ibid p. 210

(9) Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind – Moving From The Information Age to the Conceptual Age, Copyright © 2005 by Daniel H. Pink, Penguin Group (USA) NY, NY. p. 1.

(10) Cloke, Kenneth and Goldsmith, Joan The End of Management And The Rise of Organizational Democracy, Copyright © 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company San Francisco, CA, excerpts from  pp. 172-174

(11) Ibid p. 174

"How might words, images and ideas open minds, warm hearts and inspire imagination? May you find them refreshing and share them among your people."

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