Can you name your dream, the thing you really want to achieve? Is it a successful business, a shift in values in the community, a change in the law? I am surrounded by people with really wonderful initiatives. I observe that every time they achieve the goal they set for themselves, they discover they can aim higher again. It is hard to see the really big goals when we have not yet had the experience of achieving the goals we thought would already be a stretch. That is human. NETSHEILA loves working with humans, and we call our way of working connect, create and transform. Dream big and redesign your goals every 6 weeks. Aim higher than you think possible, and readjust the goal once you’ve reached it.
Take a school where are few key people wanted to initiate a culture of cooperation and a new place for the school in the community. In the early phases they talked about it together, they talked about it with friends and family, they went into their communities and talked about it. They didn’t have a plan, just a dream, a wish, an idea, and by talking about it they kept it alive.
During one of those conversations, a builder who wanted to encourage young people to learn to love the building trade listened and was inspired. He offered to mentor the school students in a building project in a public park. Together, he and the pupils built several aviaries. Visitors to the park enjoy the aviaries every day. The school students themselves have worked with the school leaders to create a new ‘place’ for the school in the community. No longer a place where young people simply go to learn, it is a place that develops tangible products for the community. Young people are transforming what they learn into value for the community.
A woman who runs a clothing redistribution center for the poor in the same community heard about the building project and invited young people from the school to participate in her initiative. She experiences the value of the enthusiastic young people, the clients experience better service and the young people get to put what they have learned about working in commerce into practice.
When I heard about the dreams of the key people at the school, I met the people and explored how network expertise could help grow the initiative. We inquired whether having teachers transform their list of “to do, later” to something they could discuss with colleagues, friends and family freely, without knowing the outcome, could be a valuable asset to the school. We decided to plant the seed, and work with 15 of the 180 teachers and see what happened. We worked with the group for 3 months, and in that short period three teachers made unexpected jumps in their careers, several new projects of cooperation between the local business community and the school were initiated and the school has the beginnings of a culture of cooperation. I also spoke with my colleague Dr Dan Kaufman of BizEdCom about the project, and he, noting the similarities between the work he is doing with the business community in Portland, Oregon and local schools, suggested we establish international links between the projects.
As people hear about the dreams of the few key people at the school, natural processes of networking unfold and, while they present challenges to management, they bring opportunities to learn, to access resources otherwise unavailable, and to build trust in the community.
The process of achieving a dream starts with A Really Good Idea (RGI). Through dialogue, it attracts assets and resources. You start to plan and in this process attract more assets and resources. Focusing on the short term and always with the vision in mind, and increasingly diverse group of people are drawn to the project and carry it into the next phase. Actions taken in one phase lead to results that can be planned – intended outcomes – and actions that can’t be planned – unintended outcomes. Allowing the unintended outcomes to influence the end result is an entrepreneurial strength.
This advice goes counter to what project management courses teach, where you start at A and work through B and C to get to D, but the logic is crystal clear. The original RGI was developed within a small circle – or maybe just by one person. They cannot anticipate what will happen once other people are drawn in by the power of the RGI to participate.
Throughout this entire process, keep planning. Don’t plan months ahead, plan in 6-week segments (always keeping your vision in mind). Use what you noticed, observed and experienced in the first segment to define your big goals for the next segment. Make these goals as stretched as you can. If you don’t you will notice that you achieve your goals with ease and you start to wonder what would have happened if your set your sights higher. A good way of stretching you goals is to imagine who you would like to be delivering your message. Would you like your ideas for social change to be championed by leading politicians? Would you like the conversation about the role of the school in the community to be a key focus of the Minister for Education? If you start looking at your initiative in this way you will start seeing opportunities to make it possible for people who command a big listening to talk about your issues.
Lin McDevitt-Pugh MBA
Lin is founder director of NETSHEILA. A network expert, she lives in the Netherlands and has an international clientele.